Teaching the 4 Skills, Day 1

In this class, the four language skills are used as a means, not an end. In this class, we will be studying ourselves as teachers and learners.

Beginning half-way through the first semester, today was the first day of my new MAT course, Teaching the Four Skills. Taught by Leslie Turpin, a longtime member of the faculty and an alumna of MAT, the class has 17 students from the US, Malaysia, China, Tibet, South Africa, South Korea, and Brazil. A goal of the course is to synthesize and utilize learning in the other courses — Second Language Acquisition (theory), Language Analysis for Lesson Planning (English structures), Beginning Language (learning practice), and Approaches to Teaching Second Language (methods & principles). Another goal is to help students prepare for their internships which begin in January.

Our classes will create experiences on which we will build personal and professional understanding. In addition to experiential activities for each of the 4 skills, we will explore theories and design and share lesson plans focused on each of the skills in turn. The class includes continuous reflection on what we’re learning. As we go, we’ll be examining the content of what we’re learning, as well as the process by which we’re learning it.

As part of today’s introduction, we did several activities that utilized each of the four skills.

  1. With a partner, speak about a time when you felt listened to or a time when you did not feel listened to.
  2. With the same partner, listen carefully to their story. Be a good listener.
  3. In a party format with these drinks and snacks, talk about something you have read that had a big impact on you.
  4. For 1 minute, write about yourself as a writer (to get your ideas flowing, also known as schema activation). Then, on a card, write 3 sentences. Pass the card to the left. Read it, pass it.  On the teacher’s signal with the card you have, respond in one sentence to the writer.  Pass it.  Read the next.  Repeat several times.  Wait for the teacher’s signal each time before passing.  Respond to the writer at the teacher’s invitation.  Keep going until you have your own card.

Handouts in today’s class include the homework assignment (think & write before reading; read with specific intentions; after reading, consider it in light of the Beginning Language class). Handouts also included the course syllabus. In addition, Leslie wants us to respond to the day’s class with these questions. I notice they are all about me as teacher and learner.

  • What helped me learn?
  • What hindered my learning?
  • What did I notice about participation in the class using the 4 skills (my own, other students, teacher)?
  • What strategies can I use to improve my participation?)

The class uses a binder of readings selected by Leslie and a textbook, Douglas Brown’s Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. Pearson Education, New York. (2007)

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