Saturday, January 22, 2011

Teacher Talk - 4

Dr.K.N. Anandan

Q: What are the various levels of teacher talk?

We have seen that each instance of teacher talk serves a specific purpose. For example one of the specific objectives of the teacher talk related to the trigger is to elicit the learner’s perception of what she has seen. This holds good for all levels of learners.
Now consider the following expressions:
1. What do you think the picture / clipping / photograph is about?
2. What ideas do you get from watching this picture /clipping / photograph?
3. You have watched the clipping. You must have thought about some ideas. Why don’t you share them with your friends?
4. What does the picture tell you?
5. The picture tells us something, doesn’t it? What is that?
6. I was wondering whether someone could tell the whole class what the picture is about.
All the expressions given above are suitable for interacting with the learners based on the trigger. But are all of them these expressions at the same linguistic level?
Of course we cannot ask these questions as formulated here in classes 1 and 2. At the same time children in these classes will have their own perceptions about the picture and we must know what these are.
One way to tide over the problem is to establish the details of the picture by eliciting them one after the other using very simple expressions. This can be followed by a question that elicits what they think about the picture. Another way is to ask questions using the code-switching strategy. Alternatively, the whole question can be formulated in mother tongue.
What really matters is whether we are able to address the perception of the individual learners by evoking higher order thinking skills.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Teacher Talk -3

Dr. K.N. Anandan

Q: How to make teacher talk a rich listening input for the learners?

Authentic and comprehensible listening input is a pre-requisite for the learner for acquiring language. This is why we use narratives in primary classes. The narrative is an effective pedagogic tool for providing quality listening input to the learners. The interaction of the teacher with the learners at various points of classroom transaction is another rich input source for the learners. Let us address ourselves to a few questions in this context.
1. What are the common objectives of Interaction at these slots?
2. Are there any specific objectives for each instance of interaction?
If so, what are they?
3. How can we improve the quality of interaction?
Obviously, the teacher cannot use the same kind of questions for each of these interactions. They depend crucially upon the purpose for which the interaction is carried out. It is fairly easy to see that each of these instances of interaction has some specific objectives. At the same time, all of them have some common objectives. Let us see what these are:
Common Objectives of Interaction
• Sharing of ideas.
• Giving rich, authentic listening input
• Embedding functional aspects of language in authentic context
• Maintaining rapport with the learners
• For Dialoguing with the learners.
Specific Objectives:
Interaction related to trigger.
• Taking out the learners’ assumptions on the theme at hand.
• Taking out learner’s perceptions on what has been watched
• Leading the learners to the theme /issue
Interactions at narrative gaps
• Triggering divergent thinking
• Eliciting learners perceptions on the theme
• Making predictions on what might follow.
• Taking out learners’ reflections on what he/she has listened to.
• Checking whether the characters have been emotionally registered
• Analyzing the situation critically.
Interaction leading to individual reading
• Instilling in learners an urge to read.
• Helping learners make prediction on what they are going to read.
Interaction during collaborative reading
• Ensuring that ideas are shared as per the instructions given to the learners
• Assessing the progress of group work.
• Extending optimal support to those who need it.
• Ensuring cooperation in team work.
• Addressing learning issues of children progressing at a slower pace.
Interactions related to scaffolded reading (posing analytical questions)
• Registering multiple perspectives on the theme.
• Identifying a point of view of the writer as well as the learners.
• Instilling value systems.
• Building up tolerance.
Interaction related to Editing
• Sensitizing the learners on various kinds of errors.
• Checking the learner’s intuitions on grammaticality.
• Building up confidence in using language.
Interaction related to forming big books.
• Addressing heterogeneity of the class.
• Providing slot for creativity of children
• Checking the learner’s affinity to the target language
What the teacher has to do is to build up a dialogue with the learners. This can be done with the help of strategies such as the following:
 Using tags (positive, negative, same way)
 Reporting
 Using discourse markers (for expressing attitude, politeness etc).
 Agreeing or disagreeing with the speaker
 Seeking agreement or disagreement
 Stating one’s own opinion
 Using short responses
 Building up on a certain response.
Most importantly, the classroom language the teacher may have to use for interacting with the learners will have to be suitable for the level of learners.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teacher Talk -2

Dr.K.N. Anandan

Q2: What are the features of teacher talk?

Teacher talk includes the questions that teacher poses in the classroom, the discussion that is initiated on specific social issues / theme and also the instructions she gives to the learners at various points. The teacher should clearly know the objectives of each instance of interaction. She should also take care of the level of learners while interacting with the learners. For instance, in classes 1 and 2 she may have to make use of code-switching. In higher classes she may be using slightly complex structures too.
The general features of teacher talk are:
• The language is error free with well-formed constructions
• It is comprehensible to all learners
• It is audible to the whole class
• It is dynamic, positive, pleasant and learner friendly
• It is free from expressions finding fault with the learners
• The speed of articulation is to be reduced
• The articulatory features (such as pause, stress, tone, and tempo) are maintained
• It is not one-sided talk from the part of the teacher but a dialogue between the teacher and the learners
• It contains various discourse markers (such as well, precisely, as a matter of fact, etc.) wherever these elements are apt contextually
• It contains linguistic elements such as tags, short responses, etc
• It addresses higher order thinking skills

Teacher Talk-1

Dr.K.N. Anandan

Q1: What is teacher talk?

We all know that language is primarily speech. This implies that if the learners have to acquire English they should get input in the form of language that is spoken. Without this we cannot expect any learner to acquire any language. The listening input cannot be substituted by the input learners get through reading.
So what is meant by ‘teacher talk?’ All teachers talk to children. We all know this. In fact sometimes teachers even talk too much. Language pedagogues say that teacher’s over-talk is characteristic of any teacher centered classroom. Therefore teacher talk does not mean this. Teacher talk also does not mean the many number of questions posed by the teacher for eliciting responses (whether they are free or fixed responses).
The revised curriculum of Kerala envisages a classroom process where at several points the teacher has to interact with the learners.
What are the various slots where the teacher has to interact with the learners? Let’s have a glance at these:
• Initial interaction
• Interaction based on the trigger
• Interaction leading to individual reading of the text
• Interaction at various stages of collaborative reading
• Interaction related to asking analytical questions
• Interaction leading to individual writing of the discourse
• Interaction related to the individual presentation of the discourses
• Interaction while the discourses are refined in groups
• Interaction related to the presentation of the group product
• Interaction prior to the presentation of teacher’s version
• Interaction related to thematic editing
• Interaction related to editing
• Interaction related to the formation of big books
• Incidental interaction that might take place at any time
Each instance of interaction serves a specific objective. At the same time all instances of interaction serve some common objectives too. Unless the teacher knows why she has to interact with the learners at a certain point and how it is to be done the teacher talk she gives will not be meaningful. All these instances of interaction can be put under the umbrella of teacher talk. But there is a vital point to be taken care of: The teacher talk should be meaningful and comprehensible to the learners.
Dear friends,
There are several questions that teachers ask quite frequently. This is quite natural bcause there is a tension in the their minds between what their belief systems ask them to do in an English class and what the new pedagogy demands from them. teachers need very strong academic support to overcome this tension. Any teacher might get frustrated if she does n't get the support she needs for transacting the revised curriculum.
In the coming blogs I will make an attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions.
Best wishes and Happy New Year