fifty years ago, Wilga Rivers said that the old saying “If
you can say it, you can write
it” was simplistic in its concept of the communicative aspect of
writing. However, even today we tend to consider writing as a final
product, too often for evaluation purposes. Therefore, from our
teaching perspective, we are concerned about our students’ written
product, but not the process they go through to create, organize and
transmit ideas. Paying attention to a final product and not to the
process of writing itself, makes us focus only on grammar,
vocabulary, and spelling, that is mainly the use of the language.
the eighties there was an important transformation in the way the
development of our students´ writing ability was seen, going from
focusing on the product to focusing on the process, a transformation
that, unfortunately, is not shown in many of our courses today.
first step we must take to see writing as a "process" is to
pay close attention to how our students develop good quality ideas
and how they plan to organize them within a text. Let me emphasize
the phrase "good quality". In general, and I have seen this
in many university students, there is a misconception that writing in
a foreign language prevents us from generating intelligent and solid
believe that when we write in English, the use of the language is
what matters, not the content. Therefore, whenever a text is free of
language errors, the quality of the content is relegated to a second
place. Unfortunately, this lack of quality content will become a
source of difficulties when students need to pass international
English exams such as the GMAT or GRE, required to pursue graduate
then are the indicators that we should bear in mind if we want to
develop the process of creative writing in our students?
have a lot of practice in the generation of ideas and how they
relate to each other.
learn to analyse if the idea they are considering is powerful enough
to be a "topic sentence" which in turn can be developed
into a paragraph.
are taught how to plan, review, reread and rewrite each time they
realize that they are not conveying their ideas clearly.
a good writer will give our students an invaluable competitive
advantage for academic and professional life. So, what can we start
in your students the ability to generate "powerful ideas"
and then find logical relationships between them.
your writing lesson generating ideas by using brainstorming
quality content as a necessity. Content is as important as the use
process": teach your students how to review, rewrite, clarify
and, why not, write it again!
start by writing only one paragraph.
activities in which they can evaluate how coherent a paragraph is.
That is, how clear and logical the ideas presented in a paragraph
your students in the use of connectors and always recommend grouping
them by meaning. For example: However, nevertheless, but have same
students with good practice in the use of cohesive devices that
allow them to connect words at sentence level.
is important! Students must learn how to address different audiences
by selecting the tone needed to convey their ideas: formal,
business, informal, etc.
develop good writing skills in your students you need to “Think
process”. A good start is paying attention to how your students
come up with good ideas and how effective they connect them rather
than rushing to grade grammar and vocabulary.
LA LAMA, MARIA, Bachelor in Education, has a master's degree in
Applied Linguistics and a Bachelor's in Linguistics, both obtained at
the University of California, Davis. She also holds an MBA from
Universidad del Pacífico. She currently serves as the Director of
the Language Center at Universidad del Pacífico.
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in the technological and digital era, acquiring knowledge is at the tip of our
fingers or should we also say that an oral message would be enough to search
what we want?
Even though the answer may be
affirmative, we need to consider that finding the right information does not
necessarily mean learning takes place. If we want learning to be achieved, we
must at least have a plan and other components. Nevertheless, even if we did,
we may still need the help of a professional, the teacher.
What happens in an everyday class? Who decides what needs to be learned?
Apparently, that is the teacher’s job: to decide what has to be done in order to help students achieve their goals. In fact, that is why everybody registers for a course in an institution or takes classes with a private teacher. Most of us need somebody to instruct us in what we need to do. Thus, a teacher would perform many of the following tasks:
1. Identify what students want or need to accomplish.
2. Make a diagnose of students’ level of English.
3. Determine how much time the student will need to reach the required level.
4. Choose the best material: a textbook if possible, and additional material to provide further practice.
What else do you think a teacher must keep in mind?
What about methodology?
This must be connected to the students’ learning style, rhythm, and skills. We teachers always have to adjust our teaching strategies to our students’ needs and interests so as to keep their motivation buzzing.
If we do all this, why are there still students who either take too much time to learn or seem to learn nothing at all?
Unfortunately, many times some students think that because they attend classes, they would just learn magically as if we teachers had a sort of powerful mind able to transfer all our knowledge and enable them to either speak or write, for instance, in the blink of an eye. It is true that a good class should be such that students will leave the classroom knowing what was taught; however, what the teacher does in the classroom is not the only element that should be considered when measuring results. Actually, there are many other factors intervening and the students themselves constitute an important one. Thus, whatever they do or fail to do certainly affect their learning as well. Acquiring would depend on a number of different experiences provided by the teacher as well as by the students themselves. This number of experiences will affect learning as you will see in the following simple graph.
I also need to underline how important it is to recognize that the more learners practice, the better and faster they will learn. Experience in this context will be connected not only to what students do in class but also to what they do outside the classroom. Furthermore, we need to remember that mastering a language is the result of developing both, motor and cognitive skills, which are closely related according to Piaget (1). I always compare mastering language with flying an airplane or how driving a car. Nobody, as far as I know, would be able to fly a plane or drive a car by just reading the manuals. It is necessary to practice an extended period to begin doing it and then a large number of hours to overcome the skill. Thus, anybody who thinks that attending classes will be enough to gain control of a language is mistaken. In order to make it possible for a person to lodge something into their long term memory, they have to “experience” or practice many times, especially if he wants to learn fast. If a student relies only on what the teacher offers in class, he will certainly take more time to absorb anything.
What does a learner have to do then? What suggestions could we give him?
In order to help students practice intelligently, the teacher has to help him by recommending the following:
1. Review what has been done in class
2. Apply what he has done in class in something he is doing at school, university or work. That is, if he has learnt how to give suggestions in class, he could start writing or recording recommendations to people in his environment. The student must experience that what he has been taught proves useful.
3. Watch videos. Just make sure to teach students how to take advantage of the videos. It is not useful at all to only share links without telling them what to do. Even better, open one of those links in class and model how to use them. Otherwise, watching videos or listening to them would be a waste of time and energy, yours and his.
4. Organize his time to practice constantly. There is not much efficiency in doing some exercises from time to time. Just remind them how many hours pilots, for instance, invest in their flights before becoming authorized pilots.
5. Monitor their progress. For this, they first need to set objectives. Without them is like going to the supermarket and buy something and then return home and start wondering: What can I cook today? A waste of time and money, isn´t it?
By the way, some of these suggestions could also be useful for self-taught students who would try skipping classes or saving some money. In any way, one always needs some guidance. If one happens to have a kind of coach, as most of us teachers are, it could be better because we will save them time relying on our experience and knowledge, though I have met some students who needed merely very little help because they were already accustomed to studying on their own.
What else can we suggest to our students?
Share your experience and ideas with us*
(1) Piaget, J. The origins of intelligence in children. Norton & Company, New York, NY; 1952
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Teacher trainer, Pedagogic Consultant and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and relationship manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS)
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all know the scenario: robots overtaking humans…how scary is that? When it
comes to our classroom, what are the chances to be displaced by artificial
intelligence or mere chatboxes?
of all, let’s get information about what artificial intelligence is capable to
accomplish. I quite often read information about algorithms, chatboxes and
apps, not only to be updated but also to try them myself. There is an important
distinction to be made: technology used by teachers and technology employed by
students.Each one has definite
purposes, to say the least.
we can find some reflections about my findings:
AI is already being applied in Language
Acquisition In fact, this is not new at all. The application of AI started
about 30 years ago. Duolingo is a
free app used to learn languages and it is quite popular among students, since
it is free. This app has recently included a new feature: a chatbot, which
allows students to practice without feeling embarrassed of making mistakes,
especially if they do not feel particularly confident when speaking. We were
all new to the language once; would you not have preferred if there had been
absolutely no potential of anyone taking notice of those mistakes?
2.AI is really effective in terms
of collecting data, which allows the standardization ofinformationregarding
students’ production, let’s say in written tasks, and also provides instant
feedback. There are platforms that are available 24/7. This gives the students
the sense of always getting attention. Who would not like getting immediate
replies when practicing? Waiting for feedback may be quite discouraging.
3.LUMILO is an augmented reality assistant which, together with the teacher,
monitors students’ performance in real time and allows the teacher to assign
more challenging activities to stronger students and provide support to the
ones that are struggling with the tasks. If we do not step up and accept the
challenge that the ever-improving augmented reality technology presents, who
4.GRAMMARLY corrects students’ writings. This means saving a lot of time in
class. What can a teacher do then? Identify the students’ weaknesses and providing
them with practice on that particular issue. Besides, this application helps
students to know their scores, how well they are doing, but NOT how to write
and/or organize a text. Because of this, students will still ask themselves
“but what can I do to improve?” which will result in them seeking advice from
5.Technology promotes collaboration. Forums and wikis work really well. Teachers start
the thread and students participate by answering the main questions and
replying to at least two of their classmates. Rules regarding participation
must be clear to make the most of it.
6.Technology reduces repetitive tasks by programming the feedback of each question in an
exam after it is finished, for example, which in turn allows not only to get
the score, but also statistics of the classroom’s results. It is also very
handy when getting the final scores of a course since we upload each activity’s
grade all along the duration of the course or the term; when it is finished we are
able to get the final score just by clicking on it. As teachers, we deserve
some help with data organization too, don’t we?
7.And last, but not least important, when
dealing with this fear of being substituted by a contraption, rest assured, technology
will never be able to replace teachers. However, our roles are constantly
changing, and this is no exception. We will turn out to be supervisors in the
learning process. Once again, this is not breaking news. With the Flipped
Classroom, we have a similar role. It is a matter of not losing perspective.
Now, what about you?
Have you ever felt threatened by technology that your
institution has invested on?
Do you think it is not a fair competition or just not
possible to compete with Artificial Intelligence?
Cruz graduated from Ricardo Palma
University as a translator. She also finished her master’s
studies in Linguistics and took some specialization diplomas in the
Teaching of English and Spanish. She has also completed some online
certificates: Teaching theWorking Adult, Online,
Hybrid and Blended Education, among other self-study courses. She has
taught different courses, programs and levels and has been a teacher trainer, a
lecturer and online instructor for more than 25 years. She has just
finished her master’s studies in Translation. This article aims to reflect
on this important current topic, the use of Artificial Intelligence in the classroom.
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