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Blog criado por Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa, professor de Língua Inglesa desde 2002. Esse espaço surgiu em 2007 com o objetivo de unir alguns estudiosos e professores desse idioma. Abordamos, de forma rápida e simples, vários aspectos da Língua Inglesa e suas culturas. Agradeço a sua visita.

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segunda-feira, 9 de setembro de 2013

My poop talk about questions in the absence of context - Part I (I don't know if I'll be writing a part II).

Have ever had the feeling that you had been teaching something but in the end of the lesson, you get sad (or upset) just because nothing went the way you planned?

Well, there are so many things I would like to talk about here, but I guess that focusing only on grammar now would be enough.

I’m not trying to write something based on science (research or something like that) but I’d like to focus on my own experience. It pains me to tell you guys (it pains me more to tell myself), but it was not always that I had to use textbooks that I had chosen. That is, many times I had to teach English as a second language using materials with lack of features such as questions without context. Yes, I mean context.

Lately, I have been reading a lot about EFL and I am concerned about my beliefs now. Question like “Can communicative methodologies or free practice activities (somehow) encourage fossilization?” have come into my mind very recently (that’s another topic that I will certainly be talking about in the future). Oh, gosh, and what if I had been doing this wrong? Well, it is never late to learn a thing or two, right?

I reckon that we are all familiar with the experience of being asked the meaning of a word (or a sentence) and having to reply with the “but what’s the context?”

That’s right, a student asked me the, say, meaning of “he’s reading a book”. This one students is still starting her journey on language learning, but I had the feeling that I had to provide her with an (simple) answer in that moment. That student is one of the leaners that knows more than what she really thinks she does.

I said “he’s reading a book” can mean a lot of thing, but I do not know if that was the best response. She then just looked at me and asked, “Can you be more clear?” (Elementary student, remember?).

I just said yes and then I continued with this “maybe the boy is reading the book right now, but you can imagine that tomorrow afternoon he will be reading the book at home. Or that he never wears his glasses when he is reading a book, or maybe he is reading a book every day now because he has a lot of free time”. (too much information for beginners, but anyway…).

She looked at me, but I am quite sure that she didn’t get ‘the big picture’, so I had to explained it in Portuguese, which took me more than five minutes. As you folks can remember this one student is still an elementary level student and she didn’t study the Present Continuous Tense yet because she started joined this group coming from the placement test.

But what is this fuss what about? Well, I realized how difficult it is to teach grammar topics, even if you say you set the context (well, the book says it) and blah, blah, blah.

What really happens in the classroom is that we deal with sentences (most part of the time) in isolation and that’s not the way people speak outside the classroom. In fact, I real-life communication there aren’t too many rules. Nobody really cares if you used the auxiliary verb ‘do’ or ‘does’ correctly, for instance.

In addition, when we decontextualize the grammar, the result is always the bunch, if I can say that, of practice exercise that are of doubtful value.  

These ‘choose-the-correct-form-of-the-verb-like activities’ and ‘which-of-these-sentences-are-grammatically-correct-like tasks’ are quite often in the absence of context and a great deal of time might be wasted in the classroom.

In other words, questions in the absence of context misrepresent the way the language is really spoken (used in this case) in real-life situation. Moreover, those kind of questions give us, language speakers, slightly unreal air.

I will be writing about some EFL topics from now on, my hairy-palmed friends. I’m a little tired of posting topics about English but written in Portuguese (it has never made any f-word sense to me). I am not bluffing; this is the beginning of new kinds of entries. If you guys never come back here again, I’m really sorry, but it means that you’re not my audience.

Thanks for your time and let the new (blogging) era begin. Let’s stop the poop talk and wait for the next entry, shall we?


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