Comment on Jeremy Harmer’s blog post ‘Multi-tasking, uni-tasking, myths – and language learning?’

3 12 2011

I think, Jeremy, having read quickly through this thread with a film on in the background and unanswered emails awaiting me while enjoying an Argentine Bonarda, that your last utterance holds the key. I think I’m going crazy. All through this thread I’ve been lead back to your talk at the IHWO DoS conference 2010 on HMS Belfast about the need to get our students to think.
I really like the idea of focus and am thinking we should rename controlled practice activities as focused practice activities (would freer practice then become the more honest unfocused practice activities?). I’ve just spent the last month with a fabulous group of Celta trainees who had real challenges describing what kind of controlled practice they were providing. They struggled to see the distinction between an activity designed to focus on spoken practice of question forms or written practice of negatives and short answers…it was all just practice to them.
Perhaps our students need more focused focus? An activity on spoken positive statements, then negatives, then questions, then written questions, negatives, positives or more likely the complete reverse? Either way, more focused focus. And most of all they probably need to be provided with the opportunity for focused thinking rather than speaking or writing.
The reason you think you’re probably going crazy is because focusing someone else’s thinking is a near impossible challenge, or perhaps the world’s great political leaders (and some of the shabbier purveyors of the cult of personality) would have made great language teachers?




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