Teach | Learn preface

I’ve been busy, busy, busy! So not posting much but here is the preface of the course book I’ll be publishing tonight or tomorrow. Teach | Learn.

It outlines how the book works and the rationale for the books use and strength as a teaching tool. Stay tuned and get the whole book shortly!

This book is dedicated to Andrew Finch who inspired me through his own ideals and materials.

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.

Albert Einstein

“When learners have interest, education just happens”

Sugata Mitra – Hole in the wall project

“You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it within himself.”

Galileo Galilei

Visit efl Classroom 2.0 for more resources related to Teach | Learn.

All lessons in this book can be edited. Go to the Teach | Learn wiki for more information.

Why this book, Teach / Learn?

This book grew out of my experiences over 20 years, designing materials and teaching English. Through observing many classrooms as a teacher­ trainer and evaluator and from my own success teaching and giving workshops on “teaching with only a piece of paper”.

I concluded that traditional methods and textbooks were ineffective be-cause they did not start from the premise that students can and must par-ticipate actively in creating the curriculum (the language) from which they will learn. Students intuitively, know best their needs. They know best the language from which other language may root and grow. I con-cluded that there must be a way to guide both teachers and students to-wards a more participatory, organic, emergent and creative classroom en-vironment.

Teach / Learn allows

several things:

1.  Teachers to shirk the engrained, teacher directed style that is so easy to fall into after thousands of hours having experiencing this as “what teach-ing is”, as a student. It can be achieved through a simple set delivery that frees teachers from excessive planning and worksheet mania – allowing them to focus on delivery and student assessment and feedback.

2.   Students to be motivated through the use and creation of their own content. We all know how much “pride in a product” can motivate. Stu-dents create a book that documents their own learning. Students are also motivated because the content is not imposed – it is what they want to talk about, write about, listen to, play, use, process and learn. It is from the inside, not the outside.

What is SCC?

Scc stands for “Student Created Content”. I borrow the term from ugc or ucc “user generated/created content”, that is the motor of Web 2.0 and the internet. The users generate the content – think wikipedia, think youtube.

It is an approach that tries to simplify the teaching/learning process and equalize the power relationship that exists between teacher/learner (much like cll – community language learning does with its focus on the teach-er as a language “knower”). It also is a way of instruction that completely focuses on the student’s world/context. It ushers from the belief that all language learning must start from that focal point, no where else. The teacher models and then the students create the content and re-practice based on the teacher’s modeling as an “expert”.

It is an approach. There is no “one way” but rather some basic tenets to be followed (see the notes for each lesson offering many delivery variations/ options). The basic principles are:

1. The students create the content (worksheets, words, sentences, topics, dialogues that will be used for instructional purposes). It is a complete

“personal/ego” approach to language instruction. This also means that the book can be used with multi-level classes (because the content comes from the students themselves and is already, “leveled”.


2. It is REAL. Not about anything artificial or from a 3rd party/publisher.


It is about the life and times of the student and teacher. The classroom situ-ation is no longer treated as an artificial “studio” but rather as a meeting place for real events, for real talk about real things that interest the students.


3. The teacher is also a learner and does what the students do. In this fashion, the teacher is not all knowing but a participant. In this “low level” way, the power barrier that exists is diminished and better learning oc-curs and better modeling of the language.


4. It is an inductive approach. It is a wholistic approach. The students are first engaged and prior knowledge elicited on the topic. Only then, are the students asked to create the content and practice the language first modeled and encountered holistically and in context.


5. It is self organizing in design. It grows naturally from the process of creating a product. There is no outside intervention into the system (like an imposed textbook curriculum). There is not a lot of planning for the teacher. The focus is on instruction, the art of “how” and not “what”. Tea­ chers using an SCC approach don’t have to spend time planning, making



materials, preparing. Their energy and reflection goes into developing their teaching skills as they happen, during instruction. The students create the text and textbook.

How to use Teach / Learn?

There are 3 basic stages:

1. Getting Started

The teacher uses a photo/picture or brainstorming activity to engage and elicit student response.

This is done as a whole class activity. Student prior knowledge is primed as they try to communicate with the teacher. The students talk about “the teacher’s world/life” or I even suggest at this stage using a higher level student as the focus.

In this stage, the basic language structures and vocabulary is practiced but in a natural form of communication and elicitation. There is no need to say, “Today, we are learning about ‘x’.”

At the beginning of this stage, the students don’t have their books opened. Their full attention is on communication. The teacher should prepare the board of materials on a screen as outlined in the “Teacher’s Notes” section for each lesson. Student’s will practice this page / content again in small groups or pairs when they open the book. Of course, if you have no board/ projector – you’ll have to use the book and have it open.

2. It’s Your Turn

The students are asked to create the content. This can be in the form of words, questions, brainstorming, drawing, gap fills etc… the content is always what they want and from their own experiences.

Using this content the students in small groups or pairs, practice with it. The teacher sets up the target language but from the nature and sim-plicity of the materials, this is usually self evident. The instructions are embedded because the students are just repeating what was done previ-ously as a whole class.

3. Extension

Language needs strong context, recycling and comprehensibility to be acquired. In this stage, there are optional and proven online materials to support the lesson’s teaching / learning. The teacher or the student on their own, after class, can choose from 4 selections. Some will be highly appropriate, others not – each class is different. They consist of both re-sources and learning materials (videos, games, quizzes etc…)


There are “Teach / Learn Notes” for each lesson. A basic 1,2,3 on how to deliver the lesson. Tips and pointers to help. Of course, feel free to use your own approach.

In addition, almost every lesson has a Voicethread where students can go and respond/speak. Especially in many EFL contexts, students need this extra practice given how hard it is to do this during class time or outside school. You can copy the voicethread and put up as your own private Voicethread – I’ve set these permissions.

This book is a testament to the fact that we need to train teachers in new ways. Deemphasize the expert and the control and create real student centered curriculum and delivery. We have to focus on the students, on the learning and not on the teaching, the pedagogy. Concentrate on the thing itself, not the shadow.

Teach | Learn is meant to be shareable. After download, you can “Share-alike”, copy as much as you want/need and share with who you want. I will also make available on my blog – an editable file for all who purchase the book. So you can personalize the text and change to suit your stu-dents. Sounds radical? Not really, it should be the standard and it is as simple as that. You know your students best and should have a textbook that is “maleable” and can meet your student’s precious, unique needs.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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