A couple of comments on ‘Five against One’ by @bealer81

6 10 2012

An International House colleague, Adam Beale, finishes off his second year of teaching and heads into his third with a couple of pertinent blog posts and much promise of an exciting new project for the year ahead:


I think I’m looking forward to your blogs this year even more than last years – hopefully we’ll get lots of adapted materials out of you to share on the IH platform! And will you be presenting for us at IHTOC3 –http://tinyurl.com/IHTOC3info ?


Adam, interesting reading and a lovely way to bring the project to a close – really enjoyed following it all the way through.

That you finish with a comment about emergent language and a formula is great too – I have many doubts about Emergent language and I love formulas. I think the Dogme movement are confused when they speak about emergent language, what they really mean is interlanguage. As I understand it, emergent language is the result of the process, therefore your formula could read:

interlanguage + input = emergent language

I’d be a lot happier with this formula, but it’s also one that’s been around a lot longer then Dogme…




3 responses

7 10 2012
phil wade

Hi Neil,

Yes, I used to get a bit confused about that too. Now, I try to categorise what they say and don’t say into 1)Interlanguage errors 2)Fossilised errors and 3)Obvious gaps. Then, depending on the student, I’ll even add more to push them up to the next level. I’ve also started thinking more about exposure and reinforcement with relation to learning and production. What I mean is if a new word comes up how can we cover it even times, in enough different ways and in strong enough ways that it will be remembered? Most of my older students are like me in that they can’t be shown 5 words, do 5 gap fills and then become automatic users. It takes time. If you go by the 7+/-2 then it gives you an average to work on but making language contextual, meaningful and immediately useful certainly cuts that down. However, whether it moves to long-term memory by next week is another matter.

I think everyone has a different idea about Emergent Language. For some it’s just correcting errors, for others going ‘you should use an idiom here’ and even ‘don’t you know the present perfect?’.

As many have pointed out, I don’t believe such work is easy for new teachers, especially English ones who’ve never learned grammar and only pick it up over the years from teaching with books.

7 10 2012

Hi Phil,

Many thanks for commenting and for your thoughtful words – completely agree with everything you say. Responding to student error and omission and simplicity is perhaps at the same time one of the most challenging tasks for a teacher and one of the most helpful for a student.

BTW, I doubt your younger learners can see five words, stick them in gaps and then become automatic users either :). Let’s keep in mind the +/- seven opportunities for meaningful process everyone!

7 10 2012
phil wade

Exactly my point but isn’t that how boos operate and lesson plans? What I mean is, we introduce a few weeks, do a couple of exercises which are often pretty easy and then either move on or provide an open opportunity where we hope they’ll produce them perfectly. After this, maybe there’s a revision activity at the end and then onto something else next lesson. This is why I hear time and again “we did that…”.Well, maybe but it takes more than “doing” it for students to become proficient. This is what I like about adult learners, they say “look, I can only learn a couple of words per lesson” and it’s true. Far from the intensive ‘language pumping’ I used to do in some language schools.

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