What is it?
under (re)construction exits to compliment the English courses I teach in Santa Clara, Coimbra and used to teach in Madrid. Here you can find links to texts read, mentioned and discussed in class with suggested extention activities related to them.
It also aims to be a forum for the further discussion of ideas raised in class and written responses to things that come up as the courses progress. If you want to comment on anything, go for it!
What else might it be…
Nothing revolutionary here but a few rambling ideas, assumptions, and references to what the blog could be (mostly written to myself) with a look around at what others are doing on similar lines…
Localisation, localisation, localisation
This blog might serve as a means of getting text / input to learners which is local to them.
How? Has there ever been as much text which is so accessible to us about so many different things as there is today? In newspapers alone the international press will cover stories about the learners’ country. There are also newspapers in English covering local news and published for English-speaking communities within the country. In addition, we have national newspapers publishing translated versions of their stories or blog content in English (e.g. Spain’s El Pais’ blog Trans-Iberian providing content on Spain and Portugal in English). All these target language articles about where the learner is from are ready and waiting to be exploited in addition to various other genres to be found on the Internet.
Why? First of all, comprehensible input +. Familiarity with the subject might provide a bridge to more challenging texts; The more familiar the subject, maybe, the lesser the likelihood of understanding breaking down.
What’s more, motivation to read (and hopefully respond) might be higher if the content has a direct impact on the learners’ life. If the learner is, say, a habitual news consumer, in blogs of this kind they might find a link to the kind of text they would read if it were in their L1. Further motivation may come from an interest in how a news website/a travel website/a bloggers’ comments etc. is presenting the information about the learners’ country/city. How does this writer’s perspective differ from that of the media encountered in L1? How is the world reacting to this event? Have they got it right? How do they see us? By using this kind of content, therefore, there might be opportunities for cross-cultural comparison and understanding as well as critical thinking to take place.
The coursebook is probably global (or Global), a blog can be local. Sections in Beyond the Sentence keep coming to mind…the stuff on ‘glocalisation’ as a motivating factor in chapters 6 and 8 and how coursebooks have traditionally avoided certain controversial themes that learners may well feel perfectly happy discussing or reading about (PARSNIP themes in Chapter 7). Could this blog be a way of getting closer to these interesting areas? Even better, could it be a platform, via the comments tool or shared editing, a way of getting learners to publish texts they have come across and think would be of interest to others?
Reference: Thornbury, Scott, Beyond the Sentence (Macmillan, Oxford, 2005).
Okay, so there’s nothing new in this. It’s the equivalent of colleagues downloading a podcast from The Economist about the Spanish economy, taking it to their Bank of Spain class and exploiting it to develop listening skills, as a prompt for discussion, and as a vehicle for language study. The trick to doing it as a blog will be to getting a range of interesting, effective and well-designed activities to open-up the texts and exploit them. In other words, one of the everyday challenges a teacher faces.