Sunday, March 13, 2011


Herbet Puchta

Herbert Puchta was very entertaining. He is clearly a talented speaker and one who is used to have an entertained audience. That being said, I am under the impression that most of what he said is already known by most people who have experience with teenagers. Nonetheless, here's the gist:

His presentation was, "Ideas that work: Teaching teens to speak" This is a lot of theory with not many activities, but I do think it had things I should keep in my head as I go back to teaching teenagers.

Per the abstract it was about: "Folk wisdom has it that language learners need to 'think in English' in order to be able to express themselves fluently. In this session we will look at how the brain processes language when we speak, and concentrate on what we can do to help our students overcome some of the most frequent problems we encounter in our daily work."

About him, copied from the biodata:
Dr Herbert Puchta is a prolific EFL author and teacher trainer. He has written numerous textbooks and resource books for the teaching of English as a foreign language to young learners and teenagers. Herbert is currently President of IATEFL International. His latest coursebooks are English in Mind 2nd Edition and More!, both published by Cambridge University Press.
First let's cover the basics. Communication required more than words. I can string together a whole bunch of words in Korean, but if there is no intention (no reason to communicate) I won't be saying anything. It requires that I know what words to say, and how to say them!

To do this we (English Language Teachers) should be able to have meaningful tasks with a purpose to practice speaking. Not just dialogues, role plays and Q+A activities which focus on accuracy rather than communication skills. We want activities that force students to communicate!

As with everything in life ATTITUDE IS ESSENTIAL! Make sure to have a classroom where your students have a joy of communicating in L2, that they are willing to take risks, they can accept errors, and they have a positive image of themselves now and in the future (communicating in the L2).

Some ideas:
  • Remember Kieran Egan and his thoughts on classroom culture. Students need to feel comfortable to gossip and want to be a part of the class.
  • The use of humour in the class and the activities is priceless.
  • Use relevant content in the classroom (stories that students can connect with).
  • Prediction games (give them an unknown text with gaps and see what they can fill in)
  • Give them a line "I am sorry but can you help my cat" and have them develop a reoleplay or story.

Well., Alan Paivio has the Dual Code Theory. Part of the theory suggests that we think in words (language) and picture (images). When thinking planned out thoughts (making plans, considering words) we think in words, but for faster interaction, we tend to just think in images. This goes against the concept that you have to learn to "think in English"

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is most known for his theories on flow. Have you ever had a class where you're pulling teeth the entire time? Compare this to a class where everything just goes perfectly! That's what we want in our classes! We want flow. He gives 7 main aspects of flow:
  1. You are completely involved in the activity.
  2. You have a sense of not actually being there (you "forget" you are in class).
  3. You have an inner clarity (you know what needs to be done and how to best do it).
  4. You know the activity is doable
  5. You have a sense of serenity. There are no issues with ego or concerns about getting something perfect.
  6. You don't track the time. Students are just focused on the present and the class time flies by!
  7. You aren't doing it for a sticker. Students involved in flow aren't doing it for the good grade or the sticker. They are doing it because they are motivated by the project!
Herbert Puchtea has some more activities to implement in classes with Here's another example from him on working with teenagers when they struggle with the third person s. You can keep listening to the rest of the videos for another idea from him!

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