I’m putting the finishing touches on my Teach – Learn: Student Created Content coursebook.
One of the basic principles (which are outlined in the book’s preface) is that the students practice language using language that comes from their own “selves”. The big textbook companies have tyrannically forced students to trod through their own imposed version of reality. This leads to all kinds of road blocks on the path to learning. Let me explain…..
Normally in a unit on restaurant English, you’ll have a menu like this (and notice the spelling mistake in this “publisher” menu!”:
Attractive! Basic! Wonderful! — NOT!
There are a number of major problems:
1. The content does not meet the needs of the classroom.
Each classroom is unique and we should always start from the needs of our learners. What if they usually order chick peas and not hamburgers? Isn’t it important that they know how to say this in English and find out? Their reality should be important.
2. There is no immersion of the learning in the learning process.
Materials which are created by students and used in class, provide embedded motivation. The students worked at it and when they do so, naturally take satisfaction in using it. Practice is much more sustained. Moreover, learning a language is benefited by basic constructivist principles of “learning when doing”. We learn a language as we actively participate. Pre packaged, processed and “unnatural” content just doesn’t fit these sound pedagogical principles.
3. There is no record of learning.
Both teachers and students need a record of student learning – so they can see how a student has progressed. Both for motivation and remediation. Typical coursebooks with their photocopiable, always lost, crumpled worksheets, don’t do this.
4. There are major cultural barriers.
Language is deeply ingrained in culture. Without SCC and the ability to adapt content in the classroom and to the culture, textbooks typically treat their clients with a one size fits all. Entirely inappropriate and not effective at all. In the following example – there are major problems culturally. Are these the typical restaurant items in Daejon or Dakar or Dalian? I don’t think so. Let’s allow the local experts on culture to take part!
Here’s what I’ll be using in my Teach – Learn coursebook. Every lesson in two parts. The first, a review of the language and then, It’s Your Turn, where the students create content and practice it. My own restaurant menu looks like this. The students write the menu and then use the provided prompts/language to do activities. Radical? No, not at all. What good teachers do every day. Radical for textbook makers? You bet.