I had an enjoyable day today at the KATE International Conference in Seoul. I saw some very interesting presentations on things I haven’t heard much about here in Korea including critical pedagogy in EMI (English Medium Instruction) classes and using/creating a corpus from old CSAT (수능) reading sections. I was very impressed with a presentation on TEE (Teaching English in English).
I also saw Rod Ellis, which was nice. The title of his talk was, “The importance of Focus-on-form in CLT” and I thought it was well done and interesting. I especially enjoyed the examples of teachers’ attempts to promote understanding and focus on form. Lots of food for thought there. While listening and taking notes I was again awed by people like Sandy Millin, Chia Suan Chong, and others who are able to blog during or immediately after a conference session. I am not but I’d like to share some personal highlights from this presentation and the related thoughts that sprang up. I fear that sharing these will also highlight my ignorance on certain matters but my willingness to learn is bigger than this fear. Highlights and thoughts after the jump/pic.
- Uptake for Ellis just means a response and doesn’t mean or equate to learning. Examples of uptake to a teacher’s recast could be just say saying “yeah” or could be repeating what the teacher said or even trying to say what the teacher said but not getting it quite right. Uptake can also include the student not saying anything as it is and optional move from the student.This didn’t seem to jive with how this term is usually used in laypeople’s terms, or maybe even for most teachers.
- Ellis contrasted between Explicit and Implicit moves from the teacher. The former makes it absolutely clear to the student while the latter does not. Examples given for the latter included recasts or questions from the teacher. He said that these may be attended to or not, which made me wonder how we can be sure that Ss will attend to explicit ones. I was thinking maybe students are more likely to attend to explicit corrections but I don’t see this as a given.
- An example of an implicit question was a student making a pronunciation error (mistake?) when saying “I have an alibi” (finishing with /bi/) and the teacher saying, “You have a what?” I found myself wondering if this question would ever be turned into an explicit one with increased word stress and histrionics. Is explicitness dependent upon saying something like “no” or is there potentially more to it?
- A very interesting moment for me was when Dr. Ellis asked the audience if Korean students were hesitant to ask questions to teachers. The audience, fakely precise 94.5% Korean, said that Korean students are indeed hesitant to ask questions to teachers. Ellis responded that where he works in New Zealand, Korean and other Asian students are very willing to ask questions and do so frequently. He said, “It is not who you are, it is where you are.” Very interesting indeed.
- Ellis mentioned that many guides to teaching, especially for novice teachers, tend to emphasize fluency and recommend delayed attention to form(s) until a communicative task has been completed. He highlighted how this goes against most research. This immediately reminded me of Anne’s comment on this here blog that her initial TESOL course had her thinking she should never ever correct students directly when they make a mistake. This is an even bigger step than never intervening when students are engaged in a communicative task.
- Dr. Ellis suggested we can (and should?) train teachers to focus on form but also said, “I don’t know of any training course that helps teachers do focus on forms.” There must be some examples of this around, no? I could see this being a nice session and focus on an initial or in-service course.
Those are some of my many thoughts from today. I hope they were at least mildly interesting and/or thought provoking. Any responses welcome.