Tag Archives: Authentic

The Cheating Art

24 Jan

If you teach, you will have encountered cheating.  And if you’re honest, you’ve probably cheated yourself at some point in the past – I don’t remember specific incidences of cheating from when I was at school, but I do remember attempting to ask my classmates for answers, little slips of paper in pencil cases and writing the answers out onto rulers and the insides of pencil cases, hands, wrists and arms.  I also remember that hunched over posture, arm wrapped all the way round the test paper, to guard against someone cheating off you…

Ann Loseva has just written a great post on the impact the accusation of cheating can have.  This prompted Graham Stanley to reflect on encounters with plagiarism and cheating he has had as a teacher and to investigate the cheating culture.  Both of which have inspired this post and a lesson that I ran with some CAE (Advanced) classes yesterday.  The lesson outline follows at the bottom of this post.

One of the things I tried to do in the lesson was to gather some informal data on how prevalent cheating is.  In percentage terms, it makes interesting reading, though as I occasionally asked for a show of hands the validity and reliability of the study is questionable!

  • 100% of my students said they had cheated on a test.
  • 53% said they thought it was OK to cheat on a class test.
  • 0% said it was OK to cheat on a formal exam
  • 60% said they thought cheating was culturally acceptable in their country

I’ve heard different theories for this last statistic.  One is that Catholic countries are more tolerant of cheating because these are minor sins that can be absolved and penance performed for following confession.  Another is that people who live or have lived under more authoritarian regimes have a greater need to understand how to “game the system”, in other words, cheating is a necessary life skill.

My students thought both these ideas were rubbish, though one student did point out you are more likely to break the rules if you think the rules are wrong and where you have absolutely no respect for your national leaders and politicians, this lack of respect may extend to the rules the government enforces.  This also filters down to the classroom – when the students have little or no respect for the teacher, they do not value the lesson content as much and equally see no point in attempting to perform well on their tests.  My little survey certainly seemed to suggest that the more seriously they view a test, the more effort they put into preparing for it and the less likely they are to cheat in it.

The seriousness with which they view their tests also comes from how much value they perceive the test to have.  There are tests they are given because the system demands it – neither the students nor the teacher value them and they are treated as a formality.  Students told me stories about their teachers “monitoring” during the tests and pointing out incorrect answers, telling students the answers under the cover of fake cough.  One student told me “I cheat when, it’s like I understand the topic or something and I know it but the test wants answers I don’t know.” – essentially, when the test is testing the reproduction of knowledge rather than any deeper level of understanding.

What worries me most, though, and which sums up the cheating issue in a nutshell is the feeling that they all agreed with:  “it’s easier than thinking.”  How do you combat that?  Seriously – any and all answers gratefully received!

Two ways that suggest themselves:  (1) Zero Tolerance and (2) Better Invigilation.

There does have to be a policy decision somewhere near the top of the academic tree about what is acceptable and what is not within school walls.  Personally it annoys me when I see students frantically copying each others’ homework right before class because it defeats the purpose of setting the homework in the first place – I’d rather they were late with it – but that’s the sort of thing I let slide.  But I have struggled to impose any kind of test discipline (for example, no talking during tests – there’s always someone who makes some kind of comment!) – mostly because it simply isn’t considered part of test protocol here.  There’s a sort of “don’t ask / don’t tell” situation – the policy against cheating is theoretically zero tolerance, but only as long as you don’t have to put it into practice…

Better invigilation:  in theory I’m sure we all agree that no teacher should invigilate their own students (or subjects) and that invigilators should be doing absolutely nothing other than monitoring the exam room for the duration of the test.  In practice however, this is unlikely to happen in all testing situations.  But a teacher who is marking, lesson planning or doing the crossword is not invigilating – they are increasing the opportunity for students to cheat.  If schools and institutions are serious about reducing or stamping out cheating – invigilation policy is certainly a good starting point.

References (my lesson plan follows below the picture):

The Lesson I did with my classes:

(1) A letters circle ( A C E H T) on the board – students make as many words from the letters as they can in a minute.  Feedback: did you get the five letter words TEACH / CHEAT?

(2) Quick Poll:  (This was done quite conversationally and involved some definition of terms on both sides – what constitutes cheating / the difference between a test and an exam etc)

  • Have you ever cheated on a test?
  • Do you think it’s OK to cheat in a class test?
  • Do you think it’s OK to cheat in a formal exam?
  • Is cheating culturally acceptable in your country?

(3) Split reading:  I divided the class into two groups:  Group A got Ann’s article and Group B got Graham’s article.  They read their article and in their groups had to come up with a comment they would write under the blog article.

Then I paired one student from group A with one from group B and they summarised what they’d read for each other and discussed whether having read the articles would change their views or behaviour as regards cheating.

(4) Lexical mining:  Each pair had to find two or three words / collocations / expressions that they either (a) thought would be useful, or (b) liked the sound of, or (c) didn’t know.  These were collected on the board (each pair had a board pen) and in small groups they peer taught what they could, working it out from context.  I then filled in any gaps.

(5) I then gave student a handout with the following questions from The Internet TESL Journal:  (you may wish to edit these for your cultural context).

  • What is your definition of cheating?
  • Have you ever cheated?
  • Why do you think that people cheat?
  • Have you ever cheated in an exam?
  • Have you ever been caught cheating on an exam?
  • If you had a chance to cheat now, would you take it?
  • In what situations do people usually cheat?
  • Have you ever been cheated on by somebody else?
  • Describe a time when you cheated and it helped you.
  • Do you think if people stopped cheating the world would be a better place?
  • What do you think of people who cheat in their relationships?
  • What do you think can be done to prevent cheating?
  • What are some things you can do to prevent cheating?
  • What would you do it you saw someone cheating at something.

The students made notes individually on their own answers and then came together into two larger groups to share and discuss their responses.

That took pretty much the whole lesson (75 minutes) – with more time I would have done some reactive language feedback on correction following that final discussion, but we can do that next time!

#ELTChat Summary: Teaching at a Discourse Level

15 Feb

How can we focus language teaching more at discourse level rather than sentence level?

The first #eltchat of 2012 attempted to answer this question!  I wasn’t actually there and didn’t take part in the chat and I’m still not quite sure how I’ve ended up writing the summary except that Marisa_C possesses remarkable powers of persuasion and as someone who teaches higher levels this is an area of interest!  Hopefully, this captures the key points, but I’m not a “discourse specialist”, so feel free to point out any errors or omissions.  I haven’t cited individual contributors, but the transcript is available if you’d like to know who said what.

“Teacher, what mean “discourse”?”

The initial question makes the assumption that discourse works at a higher level than merely the sentence thought the Wikipedia entry relating discourse analysis to “approaches to analyzing written, spoken . signed language use or any significant semiotic event” – which I interpret broadly as meaning “if something attempts to convey meaning, it can be analysed to see how it does so”.  A more accessible overview of discourse suggests that discourse analysts are concerned with “the construction of meaning throughout a text”.  (it should be pointed out here that the word “text” is used more to mean a linguistic event than a written document).

Thus discourse can apply to patterns of interaction, “text” structures, communication events, language within a text – usually occurring within a context of authentic language use.  There are no set “rules” of discourse per se, because discourse examines everything and the rules change depending on the context.

Stuck at the Sentence?  Problems with discourse:

Receptively, learners simply may not know enough vocabulary to access texts effectively – to fully understand a text learners need to be able to recognize 95% of the vocabulary used in the text (Laufer, 1989).  Additionally, the mechanics of textual cohesion devices like referencing, linking expressions and paragraphing need to be understood.

Receptive knowledge of these devices also form part of language tests, like FCE, CAE, CPE, IELTS (etc), and within fields like EAP.  Often these tests also require learners to demonstrate productive knowledge of these devices in structured, genre specific writing tasks.  While genre is an aspect of discourse, genre familiarity is a separate issue for learners to grapple with.

Where learners are preparing for a language test, classes tend to become very test focused, very accuracy focused and very form focused – developing a test dependency that can be difficult to move away from.  This may account for the amount of language teaching conducted at the sentence level within test preparation classes, though this is not ideal.

It isn’t helped by the general trend within published ELT materials for decontextualized, fragmented, sentence based language presentations.  Grammar teaching in particular tends to be conducted at the level of the sentence and examine items in isolation and without reference to a wider context.  The natural fluidity of language would seem to predicate against this.

Problem?  Solution! – what a bunch of Hoey!

(Bonus points to those who got the discourse analysis joke there….)

The simplest responses to the issue of isolated sentence based grammar teaching would appear to be just to teach grammar in a wider context and by making learners aware of functional aspects of language and their use – aspects of Speech Act study (which is only possible in context).  This could be facilitated by more use of authentic materials or by use of digital coursebooks (this latter point wasn’t fully expanded upon – I’m intrigued and would welcome comments!).

The other key suggestion is to move learners from receptive awareness of discourse patterns, for example making them aware of such patterns as they occur in listening and reading tasks, through to productive acts that feature and practice the target discourse structures.  This would seem to favour a product approach to writing – the exposure of learners to a model text before asking them to produce something based on that model.  There is often a reluctance amongst learners to “do writing” in class, but while instruction could take place in class, the actual practice of the writing skill need not.

(An authorial aside – just from reading through the tweets as they related to discourse and testing, in particular the learners desire just to “get through the test”, I think it’s worth pointing out to learners that often with testing, there is no “quick fix”.  Discourse features occur in many language tests precisely because they are skills to be developed and rather than something that can be sidestepped.  There are task strategies than can help fine tune learner performance, but if the underlying skills aren’t there, neither will exam performance be! )

In conclusion – Do Learners need Discourse Analysis?

A good question – do learners really need discourse analysis skills or is it just the teachers who do?  There was a general consensus that the main goal is to have learners working and using “real language”, which would seem to take us back to using authentic materials as part of the input process, both to serve for language development and provision of exponents, but also to raise awareness of discourse structures and patterns as they arise in the target texts.

Teachers therefore need training in discourse analysis so that they can effectively instruct the learners, and be able to evaluate published materials more critically.  Thus they can help the learners to not only look at language performance but also to reflect on the language they encounter, to think about aspects of discourse such as audience and purpose – to be aware of the patterns rather than actually conduct a discourse analysis.

Further Reading, References and links from the chat:

(Links given where possible)

 

An apology on behalf of #eltchat – Raquel_EFL appeared to make a large contribution to the chat with people responding with phrases like “brilliant” and “Good point!!!”  but unfortunately for some reason these contributions didn’t show up in the transcript and I fear have been lost to history….

#eltchat takes place on twitter every Wednesday at 12 noon and 9.00pm London time.  Simply sign in or sign up to twitter and search for the hashtag #eltchat.  For more information, check out the website.

English teaching: A Friday request | The Economist

10 Jan

Originally spotted on Simon Thomas’ efl-resource – it appears The Economist has become aware of it’s own potential in the ELT sphere!  They’re asking their readers, ELT professionals in particular, for their thoughts in how to make best use of Economist material in the classroom and how The Economist can help us to help our learners access their material.

Even if you don’t have any strong desire to contribute to the debate – it’s probably worth taking a look at the article and the comments section underneath it – lots of ideas from people about how they use The Economist!

English teaching: A Friday request | The Economist.

 

All is not what it seems – The Little People Project

9 Jan

Back in December I posted on “nine pretty pictures” – ways of exploiting images with learners.

I recently came across “The Little People Project” – though unfortunately I can’t remember where – it might have been The Guardian, but I’m not sure.

I really like the images – the composition is quirky, the use of every day materials is inspired and the locations are very unexpected.  The initial images, the close ups (as above), will no doubt provoke lots of speculation amongst the learners – but in many cases other images, showing the works in their wider settings are also included.

A great collection of images that can be used for most of the purposes in the “nine pretty pictures” post – story prompts, caption competitions, role play prompts, mind-mapping & speculation tasks all spring to mind!

The World in 2012: Predict this!

3 Jan

It’s that time of year when the media maelstrom coalesces around a single topic – the future!  What’s going to happen in the next twelve months?  What can we all expect from the next year?  Will we face triumph or disaster?  And when we look back on it all in December, what will we have achieved?  And just how many “future forms” can you cram into a short paragraph anyway?

Rather than just asking your learners to “predict” the future, which let’s face it is difficult enough at the best of times, let alone in another language…  it’s probably best just to discuss the future for two reasons:  (1)  you immediately broaden out the number of possible “future forms” that you can focus on  (2)  you open things up to discussing the implications of events – so not only “what will happen?”  but also “and what does it all mean for us?”

Over at Slideshare, they’ve collated “12 presentations with predictions” which could form the basis of useful discussions (or comparisons with learner predictions?).  Their 12 presentations are aimed more at the business / tech crowd.  Probably not so good with younger learners

Here’s their top pick – Ross Dawson’s “What to expect in 2012″:

The Economist publishes an annual magazine “The World in … ” which is divided up by topic area and by geographic location.  This year’s copy has a lot of online content here: http://www.economist.com/theworldin/2012 – though some of it may be premium paid for content – check before using!

The biggest / oldest prediction concerning 2012 is of course the Mayan calendar:  for more info check out this wikipedia article.  Two further websites that focus specifically on the forthcoming end of the world that might be of interest (though I don’t vouch for their accuracy) are :  http://www.december2012endofworld.com/  and http://www.2012predictions.net/.

The BBC has a nice review of the best of the British Press predictions for 2012 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16381278, while they include the thoughts of their top correspondents on the likely big stories of 2012 here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16071986

The First day of Geekmas: A short talk on using Poetry…

20 Dec

On the first day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  a short talk on using poetry…..

It’s the last / first day of the teflgeek Christmas countdown and it’s been a fun, somewhat introspective, quite stressful on occasion but ultimately I hope, useful, Christmas countdown.  I’m not sure I’ll be repeating the experience again next year – at least not in this form!  So a reminder of what we’ve had so far:

I thought that, in a twist and given how I’ve massacred the poetic form in creating spurious rhymes in attempting the twelve days of geekmas, I’d end with a short talk on poetry.  I’ve put this together as a you tube video – it’s the first video cast I’ve attempted, so any feedback on technique etc gratefully appreciated!

Any and all links referred to in the presentation, plus a load more besides, are given below.  Enjoy!

References and further ideas:

 poetryclass – “taking the fear out of poetry” – http://www.poetryclass.net/

A wealth of teaching resources, articles and ideas on how and why to use poetry with classes.  Designed more for students within the UK education system, but resources are graded by year group, so you’ll be able to find some suitable resources for most ages and levels.

The Poetry Express – poetry writing for 7-11year olds – http://www.thepoetryexpress.com/

Again, aimed more at the UK education system.  Poetry Express has a lot of stuff that’s aimed directly at the kids developing their abilities to write poetry as well as teaching resources that approach poetry from a cross-curricular viewpoint.

http://www2.eng.cam.ac.uk/~tpl/workshops/exercises.html

This is a just a simple list of poetry workshop ideas – more ideas to stimulate poetry creation than developing ability per se.

http://connected.waldenu.edu/language-and-literacy/english-language-learners/item/1482-how-to-teach-english-through-poetry

This is a useful and interesting, but more theoretical, article on how and why to use poetry in the classroom.

The Poetry Zone: http://poetryzone.woodshed.co.uk/index2.htm

Another kids based site – with competitions, poetry theme ideas, a place for kids to upload their poems to and usefully, a teacher zone with further links and ideas to help you use poetry in the classroom.  Look at classroom resources and “Poetry Kit” by Jan Dean for some great ideas! ( I really liked the “mismatch” idea!)

Forms of Poetry:  http://www.tooter4kids.com/forms_of_poetry.htm

This is an excellent resource for different types of poetry and poetry ideas – from limericks to haiku, language based  (e.g. used to), shape poems, parts of speech poems – the list goes on and one.  Just scroll down to see what there is to see.  Strongly recommended!

Teaching Grammar Creatively.  Gerngross, Puchta & Thornbury, 2006 Helbling Languages.

A great grammar teaching ideas source, many of the outcomes are based around the idea of poems or poetry creation.  Repetition of a grammatical form, so it seems, can lead to some great poetry!

Poem into Poem, Maley & Moulding, 1985, Cambridge University Press.

Possibly a little dated in terms of content, but the ideas included are still very definitely worth taking a look at.  “We ignore the poetic function of language at our peril.  It is the cutting edge of linguistic creativity and innovation, and the key to a feel for the soul of a language.”  Page 134.

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/articles/text-language-classrooms-talo-tavi-tasp

Lindsay Clandfield has an excellent in-depth article on using texts in the classroom, looking at TAVI / TALO / TASP in more detail.

The Twelve Days of Geekmas: Six Games Worth Playing

9 Dec

On the sixth day of Geekmas, some blogger gave to me:  six games worth playing

Welcome to the teflgeek Christmas celebration!  Themed around the classic Christmas carol – but going backwards, mostly because it’s more like a countdown that way:

12 blogs worth clutching

11 tips for writing

10 tricks for reading

9 pretty pictures

8 talks worth watching

7 simple statements

and six games worth playing – with your class or at least directing learners to for some self study – or even, when the marking’s magically disappeared and you’re all planned up for the next week, worth playing yourself!

I’ve used almost all of these with learners with great success – further details on that as below!

(1)  The Curfew Game.

I’ve mentioned this game before (see original post for more detail) – it’s a truly excellent piece of free game play that ties into themes related to civil liberties and authoritarianism.  Authentic (scripted) dialogues could make this challenging for lower levels, but this could be a fun lesson for upper intermediate and above!

(2)  Stop Disasters!

This is a natural disaster prevention game created by the United Nations ISDR to raise awareness of the lack of disaster preparedness in many places around the world.  Similar in set up to “god games” like Civilisation, the player chooses between the Hurricane, Tsunami, Wild Fire, Flood or Earthquake scenarios, and then tries to put measures in place to reduce loss of life when the big one hits.  You get advice and a time limit within which to work!

(3)  Nation States.

This is a game I played with my summer school classes some years ago, arising out of a project class where learners created a micro-nation.  With Nation States, learners answer an initial set of questions to determine what sort of country they’ll create (i.e. liberal / authoritarian) and then as time goes by they are asked further questions which determine the development of their nation state.  Interaction with other users playing the game is also possible and learners can forge alliances as they need to.  This is a long term game and not suitable for a single lesson – better perhaps as a warmer / the last ten minutes of a regularly scheduled once or twice a week class meeting over an entire academic year.

(4)  Destination Impossible.

Spotted this the other day on Larry Ferlazzo’s site and have investigated!  The game destination impossible is one of about 53 excellent flash based games for language learner development – aimed at adult literacy tutoring in the UK.  Activities suitable for most levels (possibly not the very low or the very high) – my favourite of which is the following directions based game “Destination Impossible” – a must play for anyone doing this topic with their classes!

(5)  Lyrics Training.

Lyrics Training is the ultimate fast finisher task for computer room based lessons.  Learners would, if they could, spend entire lessons attempting to type the lyrics to their favourite songs in time to the singer.  With graded levels of difficulty (watch that your learners don’t “underestimate” their own abilities!) – and a wide range of songs, there’s something for all ages and abilities.  Warning:  make sure you know the lyrics for the songs they’ve chosen, or an irate DoS may soon be banning the class from the computer room forever!  A great website to have up your sleeve when one group finishes the writing task in ten minutes and the rest of the class are still struggling.

(6)  CSI:  Web Adventures.

A nice one for the more scientifically minded – or for the legions of CSI obsessives who all want to be forensic pathologists when they grow up!  The rookie stages involve learners processing a certain amount of written information and then answering some content based questions – it’s a little slow to start!  But highly motivating and enjoyable.  Again, could be a great fast finisher task?

Have a look and I hope you enjoy!

September 11th Teaching Resources

11 Sep

Inspired by a recent feature on The Guardian website, which invites readers to share their memories of where they were and what they were doing (click here for more detail), I was thinking about collating teaching resources on the topic and presenting them here.

Turns out Larry Ferlazzo‘s beaten me to it…

His latest post:  “Even more 9/11 resources” has materials from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times – as well as from the US Department of Education.

But honestly, his post “The Best Sites to Help Teach About 9/11”  has links to just about every 9/11 related teaching resource that’s out there.  If you’re planning to use this topic area with your classes – make it your starting point.

There’s also a really interesting piece on the OUP blog by Mary Dudziak on the impact September 11th has made on the classroom – read more at “How 9/11 made history“.  Thanks for @OUPAcademic for tweeting the link.

 

Fighting Fire with….

31 Jul

This is a post aimed more at those who live in countries where the risk of wild fires / forest fires is a regular hazard.

This is certainly the case where I live – wildfires are a frequent cause of much devastation and trauma, what always fazes me is the equanimity with which people here deal with it all as summer rolls around again.

So this is just a thought really – it would be interesting to talk about the issues with your classes, particularly younger learners.  What do they understand as the common causes of wildfires?  What do they think can be done to prevent them?  What information or campaigns have they encountered?

All of this initial discussion can lead to a comparison with the information found on the excellent USA Forestry Service anti-fire website:

http://www.smokeybear.com/

 

There is a lot that can be used and adapted here:  online games for the kids (which I found confusing, but then I’m not a kid….), information about wildfire causes and prevention, and a brief history of the evolution of the Smokey Bear US Forestry Campaigns (might be interesting for business classes?  Evolution of the brand?  Adaptation to local markets?  Where next for Smokey Bear?).

Of particular interest to educators – there is a set of Teaching resources available to download….  These appear to be e-versions of print / physical resources available to US based educators.

If you live in an area where wild fires are an issue – this is probably something your learners should know about – and the resources here are definitely going to help you with that!

 

 

Working with Project Classes

12 Jul

This is an entry for everyone currently working at an ELT summer school somewhere in the world!  It’s not always easy and there’s a lot of hard work – hopefully this post will help out a bit!  I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy my summer school experiences immensely over the years and one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing most has been the project classes.  This post takes a look at what’s important to remember before the project class kicks off and gives some ideas for different projects and how to stage them.

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