“The Art of Teaching Adults” – Lively Lectures

Notes:

Kitchen Timer 2 by LynGi on Flickr
Kitchen Timer 2 by LynGi on Flickr

Renner is pretty progressive – I was a little surprised that he’s ok with lectures existing.  He says that lectures can be valuable when they’re purely giving information, outlining the subject, aiming to get people interested, or modeling how to handle a lot of information.  Average attention span for a lecture listener is between 12 and 20 minutes – good to know.  Also, he cited research that said laughter and a really engaging presentation style boost retention of content.  He also suggested using ten-minute lecturettes (and a kitchen timer) and switching to other activities in between.

I seem to have a thing for simple and concrete tips.  His tips for improving lecturing were mostly obvious, but to me the most helpful points were to minimize the disruption of distributing handouts, periodically pause, and to think carefully about your sequencing.  To get everyone’s attention, change tempo, move around, or use silence.

Writing Thank Yous by Eren on Flickr
Writing Thank Yous by Eren on Flickr

He also suggested making “fill in the blanks” pages for learners to guide them and reinforce your lecture.  I actually find this to be pretty insulting and would never have considered using it.  I also would have questioned its effectiveness – it seems very much more passive than constructing one’s own notes.  But I guess not everyone has the ability to take good notes.  Maybe some adult learners, particularly people who haven’t attended college yet, would benefit from such prompting after all.  I’ll think on it.

My Overall Impressions:

I liked the immediate focus on appropriate (and inappropriate) uses of the lecture.  Maybe it wasn’t profound insight, but it was useful.

It was interesting to read a piece about delivering a lecture that doesn’t mention computers or Power Point.  Focusing on the fundamentals (i.e. use pauses) was refreshing – sometimes we can get a little too focused on the technology.  That being said, the habits of participants are changing.  Here’s an article about presenting to people who are twittering.

“The Art of Teaching Adults” – Contracts and Group Work

Notes

Contracts: It might be good for Advanced, and I think it has great potential for GED.  I think that my Beginning and Intermediate students would think I’d lost my mind once (if) they understood what I was talking about and asking of them.  It has to be time-intensive to meet with students and make individual contracts.  I wonder how exactly teachers make it work.

Eye Contact, by Jessie Reeder on Flickr
Eye Contact, by Jessie Reeder on Flickr

Working in Groups: I like the list of concrete purposes, which includes generating lists, ranking lists, measuring knowledge, and obtaining feedback, warming up, and gathering questions.  Renner also points out that 6-minute small-group chats can happen before, in the middle of, or after lectures.  It hadn’t occurred to me to have groups meet in the middle of the lesson for a comprehension check-in.

The point about eye-contact was also well-taken.  It’s extremely easy to forget about the basic experience your participants are having, right down to whether or not they can see each other.  If they’re in small groups, for the love of Pete, have them sit in small circles!


Overall Impressions

I expected these chapters to be “softer” than they were.  Ok, Contracts was a little soft, though the example provided was about as concrete as you can get.  I’m still missing the “how” on top of everything else that teachers and learners have to accomplish.

I was pleased that the specific purposes of group work were listed instead of just blather about ‘fostering community.’  It definitely left me interested in reading what M.E. Shaw’s study of the literature had to say about group dynamics.  It’s already on the syllabus, and I’m thinking it can probably happen in the current course!

Sizing Up ‘English from A-Z’

English from A-Z by C. Akinyi, from Amazon
"English from A-Z" by C. Akinyi, from Amazon

The first thing about this book: it looks for all the world like a reference book, and I assumed that it was a reference book for teaching English.

Turns out I would have named it “Learning English from A to Z” because it’s for students.  It has a reference-y feel to it and also has many exercises and an audio CD.

I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover.  Let’s move on.

I decided to skim through the book even though it’s not like the other books I’m looking at.  I’m trying to decide what the intended usage niche for this book is.  There’s not enough explanation through words or through pictures for it to be a primary text.  There are nice dialogues, lists of examples (i.e. list of synonyms, antonyms, etc.) that would make great references, and exercises for practice.  I guess it’s extra, self-directed learning for people who already have some English.  My immediate questions:

  1. do students use this?
  2. do schools use this?
  3. how can my learning center and my students use this?
  4. I should see if the library carries this, and suggest it if they don’t.

The idioms and slang section is particularly interesting to me.  The workbooks we use at my learning center avoid slang like “funky,” “nasty,” “screw up,” “homey,” and “crap.”  They’re usually skipped because they can get uncomfortable, but I think students do need to learn them at some point.  This book also lists “to pass wind” as an idiom, which I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Makes me think we should just have an entire unit on bodily functions euphemisms.  We Americans love our euphemisms.

Glancing through the grammar pages, which include Sentence Structure and Tenses, I think I should read them this evening.  They’re simple, so it’ll be a quick read to make sure I know the most basic metalanguage cold.  I mean, I know it, but whenever it comes up in class a part of me is nervous that I’m getting something subtly wrong.

In the Study Tips section, the phrase “miss pelt words” appears.  I hope on a deep level that this was intentional.

I wouldn’t have put this book on my syllabus if I’d realized that it was geared toward students and not toward teachers.  Still, I’m glad I paged through it.  Now I know what kind of a resource it is for students, and I can at least get some basic English grammar review out of it for myself for the purpose of being a better teacher.

(I’m also thinking that I might like to dig more carefully through my learning center’s books.  Maybe learning about our book collection could be another 5-week course.  I could assess more of our books the way I assessed this one, plus maybe add a summary section listing strengths, weaknesses, pictures, niche, audience, and so on.  I might have to make a page of additional 5-week courses that come to mind – my mental list is already quite long.)