quarta-feira, 30 de novembro de 2011

How Does Language Exist In The Brain?


ScienceDaily (June 30, 2008) — The “La Mente Bilingüe” research team that doctor Itziar Laka leads in the Faculty of Arts at the University of the Basque Country analyses bilingual processing of language. The aim is to find out how the brain acquires and manages languages and to discover in what way languages being similar or different is influential in this process.

In order to understand how we become fluent in a language and to better comprehend bilingualism, the La Mente Bilingüe (“the bilingual brain”) research team at the Faculty of Arts of the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU analysed the acquisition process for languages. As Doctor Itziar Laka, Director of the team, explained, “language is not something that circulates out there somewhere; although we have ways of representing it, language exists in the brain”.

In October 2007 they began the BRAINGLOT project, focusing on bilingualism, in collaboration with numerous research teams and under the coordinating leadership of Dr. Nuria Sebastián from the University of Barcelona. This project links neurosciences and linguistics and, within this, “we respond to the questions most concerning linguistics: How are languages organised in the brain? Does there exist some interchange of influences between them? Is it important that the languages are similar or not? When is a second language learnt?”

Acquisition of language
Despite much research on acquisition of languages amongst monolingual persons, scientists still have to ask themselves basic questions about bilingual acquisition: How do babies realise that they are in a bilingual environment? What are the clues for them in discovering this? How is discrimination between languages produced in infants? “We have just begun research in this line and working with children requires taking it slowly, the prior preparation period being very long”, explained Ms Laka.

For the moment, work is being carried out with small children of four, five and six and the aim is to undertake the study with even younger children. In fact, we start to be fluent in a language before birth; if we wait for a child to say its first words in order to study the acquisition process for or the initiation of a language, it is too late”.

The acquisition of languages amongst bilingual persons is a theme that is as complex as it is mysterious “For example, if we analyse two syllables that sound the same with a machine that measures sound frequencies, we will see that they are not exactly the same; so, how does the baby know it is hearing the same syllable? What is – for him or her – “the same” or “different”? The Mente Bilingüe team aims to respond to these questions by means of an experimental methodology and, to this end, the researchers are preparing specific material based on their investigations in the field of phonology.

Different ways of processing the language

“We do not know how bilingual persons represent and manage their languages and it is in the monolingual situation that we understand the processing mechanisms better - bilingualism being much less understood”, explained Ms Laka. As regards the structure of the language, the order of words is a good example for studying bilingualism. “Basque has a free order of words, but something we linguists call neutral or canonical order exists, i.e. that which requires less effort from the brain”, she explained.
According to the terminology of linguistic typology, Basque is a SOV (subject-object-verb) language, and Spanish or English are, on the other hand, SVO type. In the Mente Bilingüe team we want to find answers to questions such as: “For those persons whose mother language is Spanish and then learn Basque after the age of five, which of these typologies or word orders do they use in language processing? Do they use the same mechanisms for processing word order as do native Basque speakers who have subsequently learnt Spanish?”

The Mente Bilingüe researchers employ two methodologies, amongst others, to investigate the order of words: one analysed the behaviour of word order processing and the other the electrophysiology involved in the processing (the electric signals produced in the brain). This last technique is known as ERP (Evoked Response Potential). In the behavioural methodology the experimental individuals were sat in front of the computers of the Elebilab laboratory at the Faculty of Arts.

Either written or auditory cues were provided by the computers with sentences of various structures and the time measured for the individuals to read/listen and respond to the prompts. “For example, the brain needs much less time for processing the Basque sentence, ‘otsoak ardiak jan ditu’ (the wolf has eaten the sheep) than to understand ‘ardiak otsoak jan ditu’ (the wolf has eaten the sheep), although both are grammatically correct”.

The ERP technique is useful for analysing how we process the language. The subjects wear a cap fitted with 60 electrodes, with the aim of measuring the electricity generated by the brain. “This is very valuable information for us as it enables us to measure with precision the effort made by the brain given certain structures”, Dr Laka explained. The first research work undertaken in the Basque Country using the ERP technique was published in 2006 by the member of Mente Bilingüe, Mr Kepa Erdozia.

Apart from questions of syntactic processing, they are also analysing the effect of age on the bilingual brain with respect to phonology, vocabulary and grammar, amongst other phenomena. “To date, we know the age of acquisition of a language influences the phonology, given that those learning a language at infancy do not have an accent when speaking; those learning at an adult age may or may not”, explained Ms Laka. In the same way, it is well known that the age of acquisition of a language does not have an influence on vocabulary. “As regards grammar, our research shows that it should not be understood as a whole but that inside it there are some phenomena that do show effects of acquisition and others that do not”, she added.

Bilingual control

The researchers at the University of Barcelona who have collaborated with the UPV/EHU team have concluded that highly proficient bilingual individuals and those less competent in one of their two languages do not employ the same mechanisms to change from one to the other. Also, the fact of having to control two languages with frequency trains the brain and this training may slow down the loss of certain cognitive features that appear with ageing. “We are investigating to see if these effects found amongst bilingual persons who speak Catalan and Spanish are replicated in those who speak Basque and Spanish, in order to judge if the distance between languages has any effect”, states Dr. Laka.

For scientists this is of great interest – analysing and comparing two bilingual populations who share one of their two languages. Moreover, Catalan and Spanish are very similar syntactically, while Basque and Spanish are highly dissimilar in this respect. As regards phonology, the reverse is the case, Spanish differs more from Catalan than it does from Basque. Thanks to this, researchers can better distinguish the effects in the brain that distance has between languages.

source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080630093618.htm

terça-feira, 29 de novembro de 2011

Moral da história: Tropeçando em uma nova língua


Entenda como os neurônios do Ptix ajudaram-no a entender o que a professora estava dizendo

Por: Roberto Lent, professor do Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas,, da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)


Quando aprendemos a falar (e a compreender) uma língua, utilizamos uma grande região do cérebro cheia de neurônios especializados em ouvir e reconhecer os sons falados e outros que procuram saber o que esses sons querem dizer (como se fossem uma espécie de dicionário). Aí, a pessoa pode guardar na memória, só pensando, ou então falar alguma coisa em resposta ao som que ouviu: um comentário curto, uma resposta comprida ou um palavrão (epa!). Só os seres humanos conseguem isso – os outros animais não. E mais: para isso, só usamos a metade esquerda do cérebro!

Você deve estar pensando: o que é que a outra metade faz? Bem, a parte direita do cérebro participa da linguagem também, através de neurônios que controlam a mímica. É como naquela brincadeira na qual temos que adivinhar uma palavra ou o título de um filme só fazendo gestos. Da mesma forma, sempre que a gente fala, o rosto faz mímica junto, expressando as emoções correspondentes ao assunto: alegria, tristeza, raiva e assim por diante. E as mãos e braços participam também, gesticulando. São os neurônios do lado direito do cérebro que comandam a mímica, sempre conversando com os do lado esquerdo para sair tudo certo. Se não fosse assim, a pessoa poderia rir quando tirasse uma nota ruim na escola e chorar quando ganhasse um presente de Natal. É mole?


Source: http://chc.cienciahoje.uol.com.br/a-turma-do-ze-neurim/tropecando-em-uma-nova-lingua/moral-da-historia-tropecando-em-uma-nova-lingua

segunda-feira, 28 de novembro de 2011

A Bond

Júlia começou a fazer inglês comigo há alguns meses. Ela é inteligente, aprende rápido e mostrou um grande avanço em pouco tempo. Se ela estudasse por conta própria, já estaria falando inglês há tempos, o problema é que nem nas aulas ela aparece. Ela falta em quase todas as classes e quando aparece ( ela estuda com um grupo), fica perdida e reclama que não está entendendo nada. Falta " bond" com o aprendizado dela.

- Você sumiu, Júlia? What happened? - pergunto.

- Estou trabalhando muito, teacher. - ela responde.

- Você já pensou, alguma vez, que talvez eu esteja te esperando para aula e faltar sem avisar é uma tremenda falta de respeito comigo, e com o seu próprio aprendizado? - eu digo mentalmente, permanecendo calado, afinal, isso é o tipo de maturidade que se tem ou não se tem e pronto. Difícil ensinar sobre respeito, por isso tenho esperança que meus alunos aprendam. E aprender algo novo requer uma mudança de comportamento.

Quando um aprendizado de um novo idioma começa, o professor tenta criar um laço - a bond - com o estudante, no intuito de facilitar o processo de aprendizagem e que o aluno possa assumir uma responsabilidade, junto ao professor, pelo processo de aquisição desse idioma. O que nem sempre é fácil, uma vez que a maioria dos estudantes transfere para o professor a responsabilidade de ensinar, esquecendo-se que é ele que vai aprender.

Para aprender bem inglês, além das aulas assistidas e o obvious "self-study", bons learners sabem que respeitar esse bond com o professor é importante para criar uma seriedade e uma disciplina, que tendo o professor como " seta", os levará à sonhada fluência.

Esse respeitar inclui, entre outras coisas, não faltar as aulas, fazer seu self-study e chegar no horário. Of course, todos temos nossos issues, compromissos, problemas que impossibilitam que estejamos presentes, mas quanto tempo leva para um estudante enviar um e-mail ou um message text para o professor dizendo:

" Teach, I am afraid I wont be able to go to the class today. Sorry!"

O que acontece é que o estudante sem comprometimento só vai a aula quando quer e só estuda quando pode. E depois reclama que nunca conseguiu aprender...

- Teacher, I am sorry! Eu tive outro compromisso - dizem eles.

" Outro" compromisso? - me pergunto em silêncio. Se estudar inglês fosse um compromisso, at the first place, eles teriam, at least, se preocupado em desmarcar o " compromisso" que já tinham agendado previously com o seu aprendizado.

A minha sorte é que Júlia é uma exceção à regra. A maioria dos meus estudantes já se tornaram learners e me enviam e-mails como esse que recebi do meu learner Leandro Sena:

" Hi Frank,

How are you?

As Beatles have sung: "Its been a hard days night, I've been working like a dog" rsrs...

This week I have had another opportunity to represent my company with some guys from an American company... What I wanna share with you is that even being absent from the classes, I'm talking and writing in English every day.

Thanks God and thanks you for all tips and lessons that I've learned from you.

I Can speak English wherever I go,It is amazing.

I am now in Rio, waiting for my flight... as always, it is late.

Bye!

Leandro"

sexta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2011

Frases da Semana.


"Take every chance you get to use your English!"

"You don't want to be completely silent, but you need time to find the words: "Well…", "OK…", "So…"

"Ao invés de se preocupar em soar americano ou britânico, você deveria estar se esforçando para aprender a se comunicar bem."

"Definitivamente, não é fácil ser criança..."


Bom final de semana!


What do "recast" and "uptake" mean?


(answer from BB)

Uptake (Lyster and Ranta’s definition) refers to a learner’s observable immediate response to the corrective feedback in his/her utterances.

Recast is an implicit corrective feedback, for example, a repetition of a content in a grammatically correct way. In other words, it paraphrases of a learners incorrect utterances that involve replacing one or more of the incorrect components with a correct form while maintaining the meaning .

Roy Lyster and Leila Ranta (1997) developed an observation scheme which describes different types of feedback teachers give on errors. They also examined students’ uptake. They identified 6 types of feedback and one of them was recast:

S1 Why you don’t like Mark?
T Why don’t you like Marc?
S2 I don’t know. I don’t like him

They made observations in content-based classroom. Their results showed that recasts accounted for more than half of the total feedback provided in classes.

Uptakes were least likely to occur after recasts and more likely to occur after other types of feedback. More Uptake was a result of elicitations and metalinguistic feedback, which also proved to lead to the higher probability of corrected form of initial utterance.

In the content-based second language classrooms students are less likely to notice recast since they may assume that the teacher is responding to the content, rather than to the form.

Several other studies proved that recast is the most common form of corrective feedback and it appears to go unnoticed by the learner most of the time.

Other research found that learners are willing to answer to a recast when it is directed on somebody else’s speech. So even if they do not lead to the uptake of the error producer, they do get noticed by those who overhear.

Ideally recast leads to uptake. Further research findings demonstrate that recasts work in a language-focused class (as opposed to content-based) with adult learners, especially those who received a grammatical instructions prior to observation period. In the language-focused class students are more likely to perceive recasts as a feedback on the form of their utterances.

Pros “recasts”:

Indirect and polite way to correct errors
It doesn’t embarrass student
It doesn’t interrupt the flow of interaction
Adults are responsive
Opportunity for learning of those not speaking but listening

Cons of “recasts”:

Recasts can stay unnoticed
They do not work in all contexts (content-based)
Shift center to the teacher
Children are least likely to recognize recast as feedback
Context-limited ( only advanced students can truly employ this kind of feedback)

Yes, I am pro-recast person. First, all what was mentioned in Pros are true and doesn’t take extra time. As far as my particular context is concerned, I see recast as the anxiety-free way of correcting errors that have to be corrected. Mu students want to have their errors corrected. I want them to become fluent. Recast seems to be the least interruptive path in speaking classes.
Before we start communicating I ask students to do me a favor. If I repeat something after them, they repeat the same exact thing after me. It makes them hear not only correct version, but saying it themselves, which is more important. Depending on our focus we can omit repetition. As I have mentioned, level of the language proficiency matters. With lower level students I would ask them to pay more attention to uptakes, while advanced would do it themselves and most of the time silently.
The idea of recast is similar to the idea of scaffolding in Conversation Theories.

Source: http://ows.edb.utexas.edu/site/teaching-russian-e-portfolio/what-do-recast-and-uptake-mean-answer-bb

quinta-feira, 24 de novembro de 2011

How to keep an English conversation going


It can be difficult to keep a conversation going. Even if you understand what the other person is saying, you can feel "blocked" or "frozen" when it's your turn to speak. The words or phrases you need don't often come quickly enough to mind.

The more opportunities you can get to use and speak English, the easier it is to find the right words when you need them. Take every chance you get to use your English! See How to practise your English for lots of ideas to find speaking opportunities.

But there are other ways to help keep the conversation along. The "secret" is that you don't actually need many words to do this!

Here are some ways to make you sound like a fluent, confident speaker of English without saying very much:

1. Show interest in the other speaker
You don't need to say much. Often just one word is needed to show you are interested and listening. Try "Really?" (with a rising intonation), "Right" or "Sure". You could even show you are listening with a non-word such as "Mmm" or Uh-huh".

"I hate watching rubbish on the TV."
"Right."

2. Use a short phrase to show your feelings
For example, "How awful", "Oh no!", "You're joking", "What a pity" etc.

"My neighbour had a car accident yesterday."
"Oh no!"
"Yes, but thankfully he wasn't hurt."
"Mmm."

3. Ask a short question
You can use an auxiliary verb to make a short question which will encourage the other speaker to keep talking:

"We tried out the new Chinese restaurant last night."
"Did you?"

"I'm going to Barbados next week on holiday."
"Are you? Lucky you!"

"It's snowing again."
"Is it?"

4. Repeat what the other person said
Do this especially if the other person has said something surprising.

"He won £200 on the lottery."
"£200!"

"I'm going to Barbados next week."
"Barbados!"

quarta-feira, 23 de novembro de 2011

Recasting in Language Learning


By John

If you’re a language teacher, you’re probably quite familiar with the concept of recasting, even if you don’t know the name. And if you’re a language learner, being aware of recasting can help you learn faster. So what is recasting?

Fukuya and Zhang define a recast as “implicit corrective feedback.” Another definition of “recast” given by Han Ye in a presentation at the ACTFL 2008 conference was “a native speaker’s corrective reformulation of a student’s utterance.”
It’s not very complicated in practice. Here’s a simple example:

Student: I want read.
Teacher: Oh, you want to read?

In the above example, the English teacher communicates with the student (using a question to confirm what the student had said), while at the same time making a correction (adding “to”). The teacher may or may not choose to emphasize the correction.
Here’s a slightly more subtle example:

Student: I want read.
Teacher: What do you want to read?

In this example, while you could identify a correction in the teacher’s question, the focus is more on communication and less on correcting the mistake.
Recasts don’t have to be questions, and they can be focused on pronunciation, on grammar, on vocabulary… but they always carry with them some degree of ambiguity, because recasts are not overt corrections, and some degree of repetition is a natural part of normal speech. Will the student pick up on the correction, or will the conversation just keep moving along? (Does it even matter what the student consciously notices his mistakes?)
I believe that much of my own success in acquiring Chinese has been due to (1) getting lots of practice with native speakers, and (2) being receptive to recasts.
Here’s a typical example of an exchange that might occur (in Chinese), with a string of letters representing the focal language point:

Learner: Abcde.
Native speaker: What?
Learner: Abcde.
Native speaker: Ohhh… AbcDe!
Learner: Yes, Abcde.

The native speaker’s second utterance above was a recast, but as we see in the last line of the exchange, the learner didn’t get it. Yes, the recast was almost imperceptibly different from what the learner said originally, but recasts tend to be that way (from the learner’s perspective)… especially when they involve tones. As a learner, when you become more sensitive to recasts, you’ll hear them all the time.

Think about it… some people will pay big bucks to a teacher in order to obtain explicit corrective feedback. In actuality, though, if that person is in a second language environment, he is probably getting corrective feedback all the time in the form of recasts and not even knowing it. Recasts are great because they don’t impede the flow of information and they’re usually not an embarrassing form of correction. They’re also great because you don’t get them if you don’t get out there and talk to native speakers. They’re a positive side effect of speaking practice. As a learner, recasts are your friend.

At ACTFL 2008, Han Ye of the University of Florida presented the findings of an experiment on tonal recasting. The experiment sought to compare the effect of recasts on Chinese heritage learners with the effect of recasts on non-heritage learners. The recasts were all for tone-related errors.

Interestingly, the study found that the uptake rate for non-heritage learners was 51%, but only 28% for heritage learners.
I found this interesting for a number of reasons. The Chinese heritage learners were likely much more confident in their ability to communicate, and probably less self-conscious about their Chinese. The non-heritage learners are more receptive to feedback, but do they communicate as well?

It is likely that the role of recasts is most important in the early stages of learning a language. Our own parents used recasting on us plenty when we were children still learning our mother tongues, but eventually, either they stop doing it or we stop paying attention.
There are a lot of factors at play here, not the least of which are individual learning styles and learner personality. Recasting research continues.

I’m just one of those people that likes to pay attention to recasts.

Source: http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2008/12/29/recasting-in-language-learning

terça-feira, 22 de novembro de 2011

How to avoid silence in English conversations


Sometimes you don't know what to say in a conversation. Perhaps you don't have any words to express yourself, or you haven't understood the other person. Or perhaps there isn't anything left to say! In all these situations, it's important to avoid being silent, so here are some words and expressions to use.

When you don't understand:

"Sorry, I don't understand."
"Sorry, could you repeat that?"
"Sorry? I didn't get that."

You don't want to be completely silent, but you need time to find the words:

"Well…"
"OK…"
"So…"

You can even make some "noises"

"Hmmm…"
"Uh-huh"
"Umm…"

To agree with the other person

You want to show that you agree, but you don't have anything else to say.

"Yeah."
"Right."

To change the subject

You've all given your opinion, and now you want to talk about something else.

"Anyway,…"
"Well, as I was saying…"
"So, back to …"
"So, we were saying …"


Source: http://www.english-at-home.com/speaking/how-to-avoid-silence-in-english-conversations/

segunda-feira, 21 de novembro de 2011

British or American English?

- Como ela fala inglês bem! - disse minha estudante após assistir um vídeo onde Gisele Butcheen está sendo entrevistada por Ellen Degeneres, a famosa apresentadora americana que possui um talk show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCj2K9VrwfU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

- Ela fala igual a uma americana. Teacher, quanto tempo eu vou levar para falar que nem um americano?

- All your life!

- O quê?

- Talvez você consiga falar como a Gisele, mas mesmo que você mude para os EUA, você nunca vai conseguir se livrar do seu sotaque brasileiro e da cultura brasileira que está inserida em sua comunicação.

- Mas Gisele fala perfeitamente...

- Ela fala muito bem, mas ainda é uma brasileira falando inglês. Ao tentar soar americana, ela apenas soa como os atores cariocas da TV Globo tentando imitar o sotaque nordestino. Quem é do Nordeste sabe o quanto isso é estranho.

- Mas se eu não falar como os americanos, como eles vão me entender?

- Se você falar bem inglês, qualquer pessoa, no mundo, poderá te entender. Se você quiser aprender somente inglês americano é a sua escolha, assim como você pode optar também por fazer uma imersão em inglês britânico, ou canadense ou irlandês ou australiano and so on...however, se você optar por falar bem inglês, obedecendo a regra de pronúncia e entonação da língua em si, independentemente do regionalismo, você vai falar melhor que a Gisele ou muito melhor que um average americano, que mal consegue se expressar em público sem cometer erros gramaticais.

Ao reduzir o seu aprendizado para inglês americano ou britânico, você estará se esquecendo que o inglês, nowadays, é uma língua globalizada. Não se fala inglês somente na América ou nas Ilhas Britânicas. Nesse momento, há um e-mail em inglês chegando na sua caixa postal, vindo da Índia ou da China, que precisa ser lido e respondido e você vai usar o seu conhecimento do idioma para compreendê-lo. Ao invés de se preocupar em soar americano ou britânico, você deveria estar se esforçando para aprender a se comunicar bem.

Comunicar-se bem deveria ser o objetivo de todos os estudantes.

Encontrar a sua voz em inglês é muito mais importante do que imitar a Gisele falando, ou o seu professor ou qualquer outro nativo.

Imitação pode até ajudar a sua pronúncia, mas na vida real, quem fala com você em inglês quer te entender e se comunicar com você, pouco importa o sotaque que você tem.

Cheers

Professor Frank

domingo, 20 de novembro de 2011

-What do "recast" and "uptake" mean?


What do "recast" and "uptake" mean? (answer from BB)

Uptake (Lyster and Ranta’s definition) refers to a learner’s observable immediate response to the corrective feedback in his/her utterances.

Recast is an implicit corrective feedback, for example, a repetition of a content in a grammatically correct way. In other words, it paraphrases of a learners incorrect utterances that involve replacing one or more of the incorrect components with a correct form while maintaining the meaning .

Roy Lyster and Leila Ranta (1997) developed an observation scheme which describes different types of feedback teachers give on errors. They also examined students’ uptake. They identified 6 types of feedback and one of them was recast:

S1 Why you don’t like Mark?
T Why don’t you like Marc?
S2 I don’t know. I don’t like him

They made observations in content-based classroom. Their results showed that recasts accounted for more than half of the total feedback provided in classes.

Uptakes were least likely to occur after recasts and more likely to occur after other types of feedback. More Uptake was a result of elicitations and metalinguistic feedback, which also proved to lead to the higher probability of corrected form of initial utterance.

In the content-based second language classrooms students are less likely to notice recast since they may assume that the teacher is responding to the content, rather than to the form.
Several other studies proved that recast is the most common form of corrective feedback and it appears to go unnoticed by the learner most of the time.

Other research found that learners are willing to answer to a recast when it is directed on somebody else’s speech. So even if they do not lead to the uptake of the error producer, they do get noticed by those who overhear.

Ideally recast leads to uptake. Further research findings demonstrate that recasts work in a language-focused class (as opposed to content-based) with adult learners, especially those who received a grammatical instructions prior to observation period. In the language-focused class students are more likely to perceive recasts as a feedback on the form of their utterances.
Pros “recasts”:

Indirect and polite way to correct errors
It doesn’t embarrass student
It doesn’t interrupt the flow of interaction
Adults are responsive
Opportunity for learning of those not speaking but listening
Cons of “recasts”
Recasts can stay unnoticed
They do not work in all contexts (content-based)
Shift center to the teacher
Children are least likely to recognize recast as feedback
Context-limited ( only advanced students can truly employ this kind of feedback)

Yes, I am pro-recast person. First, all what was mentioned in Pros are true and doesn’t take extra time. As far as my particular context is concerned, I see recast as the anxiety-free way of correcting errors that have to be corrected. Mu students want to have their errors corrected. I want them to become fluent. Recast seems to be the least interruptive path in speaking classes.
Before we start communicating I ask students to do me a favor. If I repeat something after them, they repeat the same exact thing after me. It makes them hear not only correct version, but saying it themselves, which is more important. Depending on our focus we can omit repetition. As I have mentioned, level of the language proficiency matters. With lower level students I would ask them to pay more attention to uptakes, while advanced would do it themselves and most of the time silently.

The idea of recast is similar to the idea of scaffolding in Conversation Theories.

Source: http://ows.edb.utexas.edu/site/teaching-russian-e-portfolio/what-do-recast-and-uptake-mean-answer-bb

sexta-feira, 18 de novembro de 2011

Frases da Semana.






"Class participation often improves after students have had an opportunity to talk informally with their instructor."

" When students speak more, they have increased opportunities to become familiar with the new material."

" Esqueça o quanto bonitinho é ouvir o inglês do seu professor e trabalhe para descobrir a beleza do seu próprio jeito de falar inglês."

"Para ensinar é necessário não apenas saber falar bem a língua, mas principalmente saber ensinar os seus alunos a aprender."


Bom final de semana!

Por que meus alunos não falam inglês?


Scott Thornbury, renomado autor e palestrante na área de Ensino da Língua Inglesa [ELT], escreveu em seu blog o post "R is for Reticence". Neste post ele trata sobre o medo [receio, vergonha, timidez] que os alunos tem de falar inglês em sala de aula. Entrei em contato com o autor e pedi sua autorização para traduzir e publicar seu texto em meu blog. Ele concordou. [Thanks Scott! Let's see what Brazilian people have to say about reticence!]

Minha intenção é que você [professor ou aluno de inglês] opine sobre o assunto. Procure responder a seguinte pergunta: por que você [aluno] tem medo [receio, vergonha, timidez] de falar inglês em sala de aula? E, o que você [professor] acha que é a razão para este medo [receio, vergonha, timidez]? Deixe seu comentário clicando aqui!
----

Não, não há nenhum verbete sobre "Reticence" [Receio de Falar] no livro "A-Z of ELT". Muito menos "shyness" [timidez]. No entanto, trata-se de um assunto que surge com certa frequência, especialmente nas conversas sobre as abordagens que dão prioridade à fala produzida pelos alunos, tais como o Task-Based Learning ou Dogme. "Até aí tudo bem", contestam alguns professores, "mas meus alunos não querem falar".

Por mero acaso, eu tratei do assunto 'timidez dos alunos' na lista de discussão sobre o Dogme, que por sua vez gerou um post no blog da Delta Publishing ano passado: Learners who are shy to speak [Alunos que são tímidos para falar].

Naquele post eu ressaltei que o modo como o professor conduz as coisas é um fator crucial tanto para encorajar quanto para inibir a participação dos alunos em sala de aula:
Os alunos ao serem solicitados que falem abertamente sobre algo que seja do interesse deles, acabam descobrindo que o principal objetivo do professor é obter, testar e corrigir um item da língua pré-selecionado (o 'future perfect', por exemplo), é óbvio que desta forma os alunos estarão menos dispostos a entrar na brincadeira.
Foi então que me vi envolvido por um artigo escrito por Xiaoyan Xie, publicado na última ELT Journal (January 2010), entitulado "Why are students quiet? Looking at the Chinese context and beyond" (Por que os alunos estão calados? Observando o Contexto Chinês e além). Cheguei ao artigo com certa apreensão devido à sua fraca chamada do ‘contexto chinês’. Eu esperava que a autora (assim como muitos antes dela) jogasse a culpa pelo receio (medo, vergonha, timidez) que os alunos têm em falar na metodologia comunicativa culturalmente inadequada típica dos países ocidentais (conforme exemplificada nos livros-textos mais vendidos atualmente) e a incoerência desta metodologia com os valores confucianos da modéstia e sua fuga das conversas diretas. De forma alguma. Ao invés de apelar para os estereótipos culturais, a autora gravou falas das interações em salas de aulas chinesas para demonstrar como o estilo de interação do professor – incluindo seu controle exacerbado do discurso, sua fidelidade inflexível ao plano de aula e sua falha em envolver-se com as contribuições dos alunos em qualquer nível que não seja em termos de exatidão (accuracy) – contribui com o receio (medo, vergonha, timidez) dos alunos em se expressarem. Ela conclui dizendo:
As descobertas feitas através do estudo sugerem que os professores deveriam afrouxar o controle e dar aos alunos mais liberdade para escolherem seus próprios tópicos para assim permitir que eles tenham mais oportunidades de participar na interação em sala de aula. Fazendo isto há a possibilidade de estimular (encorajar) uma cultura de sala de aula que seja mais aberta aos desejos dos alunos em explorar a língua e tópicos que não necessariamente estejam em conformidade com os passos rígidos do currículo do curso e limitado às visões (crenças) pessoais dos professores. (p. 19)
Ela termina seu artigo com uma pergunta: "Qual é o grau apropriado de variabilidade (mudanças, adaptações) que os professores chineses, or até mesmo professores de outras culturas, devem permitir para que os padrões de comunicação em sala de aula sejam ampliados satisfatoriamente?"

Fonte: http://denilsodelima.blogspot.com/2010/01/por-que-meus-alunos-nao-falam-ingles-em.html

quinta-feira, 17 de novembro de 2011

Encouraging Student Participation


in Discussion


[From the hard copy book Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis; Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1993. Linking to this book chapter from other websites is permissible. However, the contents of this chapter may not be copied, printed, or distributed in hard copy form without permission.]

Students' enthusiasm, involvement, and willingness to participate affect the quality of class discussion as an opportunity for learning. Your challenge is to engage all students, keep them talking to each other about the same topic, and help them develop insights into the material. Roby (1988) warns against falling into quasi discussions – encounters in which students talk but do not develop or criticize their own positions and fail to reflect on the process and outcomes of the session. Two common forms of quasi discussion are quiz shows (where the teacher has the right answers) and bull sessions (characterized by cliches, stereotypes, empty generalizations, lack of standards for judging opinions, and aimless talking). The following suggestions are intended to help you create a classroom in which students feel comfortable, secure, willing to take risks, and ready to test and share ideas.



General Strategies


Encourage students to learn each other's names and interests. Students are more likely to participate in class if they feel they are among friends rather than strangers; so at the beginning of the term, ask students to introduce themselves and describe their primary interests or background in the subject (Tiberius, 1990). These introductions may also give you some clues about framing discussion questions that address students' interests. See "The First Day of Class" for ideas on helping students get to know one another.

Get to know as many of your students as class size permits. In classes of thirty or less, learn all your students' names. ("The First Day of Class" lists several ways to do this.) If you require students to come to your office once during the first few weeks of class, you can also learn about their interests. Class participation often improves after students have had an opportunity to talk informally with their instructor.

Arrange seating to promote discussion. If your room has movable chairs, ask students to sit in a semicircle so that they can see one another. At a long seminar table, seat yourself along the side rather than at the head. If appropriate, ask students to print their names on name cards and display them on their desk or the table. Research reported by Beard and Hartley (1984) shows that people tend to talk to the person sitting opposite them, that people sitting next to each other tend not to talk to one another, that the most centrally placed member of a group tends to emerge as leader, and that leaders tend to sit in the least crowded parts of a room.

Allow the class time to warm up before you launch into the discussion. Consider arriving two to three minutes early to talk informally with students. Or open class with a few minutes of conversation about relevant current events, campus activities, or administrative matters. (Sources: Billson, 1986; Welty, 1989)

Limit your own comments. Some teachers talk too much and turn a discussion into a lecture or a series of instructor-student dialogues. Brown and Atkins (1988) report a series of studies by various researchers that found that most discussion classes are dominated by instructors. In one study (p. 53) faculty talked 86 percent of the time. Avoid the temptation to respond to every student's contribution. Instead, allow students to develop their ideas and respond to one another.



Tactics to Increase Student Participation
Make certain each student has an opportunity to talk in class during the first two or three weeks. The longer a student goes without speaking in class, the more difficult it will be for him or her to contribute. Devise small group or pair work early in the term so that all students can participate and hear their own voices in nonthreatening circumstances.

Plan an icebreaker activity early in the semester. For example, a professor teaching plant domestication in cultural geography asks students to bring to class a fruit or vegetable from another culture or region. The discussion focuses on the countries of origin and the relationship between food and culture. At the end of class students eat what they brought. See "The First Day of Class" for other suggestions.

Ask students to identify characteristics of an effective discussion. Ask students individually or in small groups to recall discussions and seminars in which they have participated and to list the characteristics of those that wereworthwhile. Then ask students to list the characteristics of poor discussions. Write the items on the board, tallying those items mentioned by more than one student or group. With the entire class, explore ways in which class members can maximize those aspects that make for a good discussion and minimize those aspects that make for a poor discussion.

Periodically divide students into small groups. Students find it easier to speak to groups of three or four than to an entire class. Divide students into small groups, have them discuss a question or issue for five or ten minutes, and then return to a plenary format. Choose topics that are focused and straightforward: "What are the two most important characteristics of goal-free evaluation?" or "Why did the experiment fail?" Have each group report orally and record the results on the board. Once students have spoken in small groups, they may be less reluctant to speak to the class as a whole.

Assign roles to students. Ask two or three students to lead a discussion session sometime during the term. Meet with the student discussion leaders beforehand to go over their questions and proposed format. Have the leaders distribute three to six discussion questions to the class a week before the discussion. During class the leaders assume responsibility for generating and facilitating the discussion. For discussions you lead, assign one or two students per session to be observers responsible for commenting on the discussion. Other student roles include periodic summarizer (to summarize the main substantive points two or three times during the session), recorder (to serve as the group's memory), timekeeper (to keep the class on schedule), and designated first speaker. (Source: Hyman, 1980)

Use poker chips or "comment cards" to encourage discussion. One faculty member distributes three poker chips to each student in her class. Each time a student speaks, a chip is turned over to the instructor. Students must spend all their chips by the end of the period. The professor reports that this strategy limits students who dominate the discussion and encourages quiet students to speak up. Another professor hands out a "comment card" each time a student provides a strong response or insightful comment. Students turn back the cards at the end of the period, and the professor notes on the course roster the number of cards each student received. (Source: Sadker and Sadker, 1992)

Use electronic mail to start a discussion. One faculty member in the biological sciences poses a question through electronic mail and asks the students to write in their responses and comments. He then hands out copies of all the responses to initiate the class discussion.



Tactics to Keep Students Talking
Build rapport with students. Simply saying that you are interested in what your students think and that you value their opinions may not be enough. In addition, comment positively about a student's contribution and reinforce good points by paraphrasing or summarizing them. If a student makes a good observation that is ignored by the class, point this out: "Thank you, Steve. Karen also raised that issue earlier, but we didn't pick up on it. Perhaps now is the time to address it. Thank you for your patience, Karen" (Tiberius, 1990). Clarke (1988) suggests tagging important assertions or questions with the student's name: the Amy argument or the Haruko hypothesis. Tiberius (1990) warns against overdoing this, however, because a class may get tired of being reminded that they are discussing so-and-so's point.

Bring students' outside comments into class. Talk to students during office hours, in hallways, and around campus. If they make a good comment, check with them first to see whether they are willing to raise the idea in class, then say: "Jana, you were saying something about that in the hall yesterday Would you repeat it for the rest of the class."

Use nonverbal cues to encourage participation. For example, smile expectantly and nod as students talk. Maintain eye contact with students. Look relaxed and interested.

Draw all students into the discussion. You can involve more students by asking whether they agree with what has just been said or whether someone can provide another example to support or contradict a point: "How do the rest of you feel about that?" or "Does anyone who hasn't spoken care to comment on the plans for People's Park?" Moreover, if you move away from – rather than toward – a student who makes a comment, the student will speak up and outward, drawing everyone into the conversation. The comment will be "on the floor," open for students to respond to.

Give quiet students special encouragement. Quiet students are not necessarily uninvolved, so avoid excessive efforts to draw them out. Some quiet students, though, are just waiting for a nonthreatening opportunity to speak. To help these students, consider the following strategies:

Arrange small group (two to four students) discussions.
Pose casual questions that don't call for a detailed correct response:
"What are some reasons why people may not vote?" or "What do you remember most from the reading?" or "Which of the articles did you find most difficult?" (McKeachie, 1986).
Assign a small specific task to a quiet student: "Carrie, would you find out for next class session what Chile's GNP was last year?"
Reward infrequent contributors with a smile.
Bolster students' self-confidence by writing their comments on the board (Welty, 1989).
Stand or sit next to someone who has not contributed; your proximity may draw a hesitant student into the discussion.
Discourage students who monopolize the discussion. As reported in "The One or Two Who Talk Too Much" (1988), researchers Karp and Yoels found that in classes with fewer than forty students, four or five students accounted for 75 percent of the total interactions per session. In classes with more than forty students, two or three students accounted for 51 percent of the exchanges. Here are some ways to handle dominating students:

Break the class into small groups or assign tasks to pairs of students.
Ask everyone to jot down a response to your question and then choose someone to speak.
If only the dominant students raise their hand, restate your desire for greater student participation: "I'd like to hear from others in the class."
Avoid making eye contact with the talkative.
If one student has been dominating the discussion, ask other students whether they agree or disagree with that student.
Explain that the discussion has become too one-sided and ask the monopolizer to help by remaining silent: "Larry, since we must move on, would you briefly summarize your remarks, and then we'll hear the reactions of other group members."
Assign a specific role to the dominant student that limits participation (for example, periodic summarizer).
Acknowledge the time constraints: "Jon, I notice that our time is running out. Let's set a thirty-second limit on everybody's comments from now on."
If the monopolizer is a serious problem, speak to him or her after class or during office hours. Tell the student that you value his or her participation and wish more students contributed. If this student's comments are good, say so; but point out that learning results from give-and-take and that everyone benefits from hearing a range of opinions and views.
Tactfully correct wrong answers. Any type of put-down or disapproval will inhibit students from speaking up and from learning. Say something positive about those aspects of the response that are insightful or creative and point out those aspects that are off base. Provide hints, suggestions, or follow-up questions that will enable students to understand and correct their own errors. Billson (1986) suggests prompts such as "Good–now let's take. it a step further"; "Keep going"; "Not quite, but keep thinking about it."

Reward but do not grade student participation. Some faculty members assign grades based on participation or reward student participation with bonus points when assigning final grades. Melvin (1988) describes a grading scheme based on peer and professor evaluation: Students are asked to rate the class participation of each of their classmates as high, medium, or low If the median peer rating is higher than the instructor's rating of that student, the two ratings are averaged. If the peer rating is lower, the student receives the instructor's rating. Other faculty members believe that grading based on participation is inappropriate, that is, subjective and not defensible if challenged. They also note that such a policy may discourage free and open discussion, making students hesitant to talk for fear of revealing their ignorance or being perceived as trying to gain grade points. In addition, faculty argue, thoughtful silence is not unproductive, and shy students should not be placed at a disadvantage simply because they are shy.

There are means other than grades to encourage and reward participation: verbal praise of good points, acknowledgment of valued contributions, or even written notes to students who have added significantly to the discussion. One faculty member uses lottery tickets to recognize excellent student responses or questions when they occur. He doesn't announce this in advance but distributes the first ticket as a surprise. Tickets can be given to individuals or to small groups. Over the term, he may hand out fifteen to twenty lottery tickets. In a small class, you maybe able to keep notes on students' participation and devote some office hours to helping students develop their skills in presenting their points of view and listening to their classmates (Hertenstein, 1991).



References


Beard, R. M., and Hartley, J. Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. (4th ed.) New York: Harper & Row, 1984.

Billson, J. M. "The College Classroom as a Small Group: Some Implications for Teaching and Learning." Teaching Sociology, 1986, 14(3), 143–151.

Brown, G., and Atkins, M. Effective Teaching in Higher Education. London: Methuen, 1988.

Clarke, J. H. "Designing Discussions as Group Inquiry." College Teaching, 1988, 36(4), 140–143.

Hertenstein, J. H. "Patterns of Participation." In C. R. Christensen, D. A.

Garvin, and A. Sweet (eds.), Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership. Boston: Harvard Business School, 1991.

Hyman, R. T. Improving Discussion Leadership. New York: Teachers College Press, 1980.

McKeachie, W J. Teaching Tips. (8th ed.) Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1986.

Melvin, K. B. "Rating Class Participation: The Prof/Peer Method." Teaching of Psychology, 1988, 15(3), 137–139. "The One or Two Who Talk Too Much." Teaching Professor, 1988, 2(7), 5.

Roby, T. W "Models of Discussion." In J. T. Dillon (ed.), Questioning and Discussion: A Multidisciplinary Study. Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1988.

Sadker, M., and Sadker, D. "Ensuring Equitable Participation in College Classes." In L.L.B. Border and N.VN. Chism (eds.), Teaching for Diversitv. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 49. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Tiberius, R. G. Small Group Teaching: A Trouble-Shooting Guide. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Press, 1990.

Welty, W. M. "Discussion Method Teaching." Change, 1989, 21(4), 40–49.



From the hard copy book Tools for Teaching by Barbara Gross Davis; Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco, 1993. Linking to this book chapter from other websites is permissible. However, the contents of this chapter may not be copied, printed, or distributed in hard copy form without permission.

Available at the UCB campus library (call # LB2331.D37). The entire book is also available online as part of netLibrary (accessible only through computers connected to the UC Berkeley campus network). It is available for purchase at the Cal Student Store textbook department, the publisher, and Amazon. Note: Barbara Gross Davis is working on the second edition of Tools for Teaching.

Publications and Teaching Tips | Office of Educational Development | UC Berkeley

Source: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/participation.html

quarta-feira, 16 de novembro de 2011

Teacher Talk Time and Student Talk Time


At the simplest level, teacher talk time (TTT) refers to how much the teacher talks during a lesson. However, this will vary according to the stage of the lesson. For example, the teacher needs to speak more when providing explanations of and examples for the target language early in the lesson. Elsewhere he may speak less as students need ample opportunity to practice the new material. Overall, however, the teacher should roughly limit his speaking to 20% to 30% of the class time, with the remainder devoted to speaking/use of the language by the students.

On the other hand, Student Talk Time (STT) should be around 80% during the course of the lesson. Their use of the language should further promote qualitative thought. For example, this means that choral drills, substitution drills, and other exercises remain important because students need these activities to become familiar with and absorb the target language. However, too many drills or other, similar activities result in students who switch off their brains. The fail to critically observe, analyze, and practice with the new language.

Talk time by the teacher and students accomplishes the following:

1: It allows the teacher to restrict his speaking to vital areas of the lesson. When he then speaks, students know the information is important. They listen more attentively and work harder to successfully process the information.

2: Students get to speak more. When students speak more, they have increased opportunities to become familiar with the new material.

3: Students have more chances to experiment with and personalize the language. They can mix previous vocabulary and grammar structures with the target language of the lesson, as well as steer conversations towards their individual interests.

4: As students speak more, they must also rely on their skills. For example, if two students fail to understand one another, they must work together to repair the miscomprehension. This better prepares the class for the real world, where they can't rely on the teacher for help.

5: As the teacher speaks less, students have added opportunity for interest and challenge. For example, think back to your life as a student. Which classes did you enjoy the most, ones with a long lecture or ones that allowed active engagement?

From the above five points, it should be clear that the class greatly benefits from limited talking by the teacher. What's more, these are but a few of the positives available with low TTT.

Source: http://www.betterlanguageteaching.com/esl-articles/57-teacher-student-talk-time

segunda-feira, 14 de novembro de 2011

Meu Professor Fala Inglês Tão Bem...


Uma amiga minha contou que deseja muito aprender a falar francês.
Depois de muito pesquisar, ela começou a ter aulas particulares faz quatro semanas.

- Contratei um nativo para me ensinar - ela disse.
- Você esta gostando? - perguntei - Me conta o que você já aprendeu?

- Eu estou amando! - ela disse com um grande sorriso.

- O professor fala tão lindo. Estou encantada.
- Mas você já aprendeu algo?

- Não! - ela respondeu.

- Mas ele fala tão bonito. Quê sotaque. Dá vontade de ficar só ouvindo ele.

- Mas o que você aprendeu? - insisti.

- ...

Assim é a maioria dos alunos que querem aprender inglês e ficam tão encantados com o inglês do seu professor que se esquecem que quem deveria falar e aprender é o aluno. Há muitos English speakers por aí dando aulas e muito poucos professores. Falar bem uma outra língua ou ser nativo de um idioma estrangeiro não significa que se saiba ensinar. Para ensinar é necessário não apenas saber falar bem a língua, mais principalmente saber ensinar os seus alunos a aprender. Aprender inglês não é ficar vendo o professor falar. Sem esforço e self-study, você vai continuar como a minha amiga, pagando para ver uma pessoa falar um idioma estrangeiro. Se você é assim, economize seu dinheiro e alugue um filme. Garanto que é mais barato, mas tão ineficaz quanto.
Agora, se você quer realmente aprender a falar o idioma, esqueça o quanto bonitinho é ouvir o inglês do seu professor e trabalhe para descobrir a beleza do seu próprio jeito de falar inglês.

Professor Frank

sexta-feira, 11 de novembro de 2011

Frases da Semana.




"É mais fácil viver domesticado pelo ponto de vista dos outros. É mais fácil ser guiado."

"Em que momento transmitimos para o outro a responsabilidade de crescer?"

"Rhyming a word or a part of a word with another word that is spelles the same is a great technique to help students learn."

"Cada vez que você aprende algo novo, todo o seu cérebro é modificado para absorver esse novo aprendizado e prepará-lo para o uso."

"A hora da refeição deveria ser um momento sagrado do dia, dedicado exclusivamente para a contemplação dos alimentos que ingerimos."


Bom final de semana!


Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer – review


By Peter Conrad
The Observer, Sunday 17 April 2011

Memory was once a cerebral lodestar, training us to be rational and ensuring that we were moral. For classical sages it regulated judgment, citizenship and piety, and for medieval scholars, who used books as mnemonic aids not as safeguards against forgetting, it compressed and codified the history of the world. In modern times memory was redefined as an emotional treasury and a spiritual consolation: the taste of a cake brings back Proust's lost childhood and demonstrates that our wishful thinking can resurrect the dead.

This noble faculty has not yet been made redundant by electronic search engines such as Google or gadgets such as satnav, since our smart cards and online accounts require us to memorise an ever-longer list of pin numbers, passwords and security codes that are the DNA of our daily lives – a scary reminder that personal identity depends on our remembering who we are. But the contests chronicled by Joshua Foer, who in 2006 acquired the title of USA memory champion, reward competitors for the anal retention of trivia: the sequence of cards in a rapidly shuffled deck, the birthdates of total strangers, random glossaries of unfamiliar words. Such is the sadly diminished, demeaning role that the information age allots to our proudest and most precious mental skill.

Foer – younger brother of the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote Everything is Illuminated – presents this account of his year spent training for the championship as an induction into the "art and science" of remembering. In fact the useless stunts he learns to perform are neither artistic nor scientific; they are sporting feats, which is why he hypes up his associative dodges as exhibitions of strength. Thus the sedentary act of reading becomes a leap from a board poised high above an Olympic-sized pool: "I decided it would be a good idea to dive (bellyflop, really) into the scientific literature." Foer works this mock-heroic metaphor to death, honouring his colleagues – ill-groomed and unsocialised wonks, who wear blinkers and blacked-out goggles when competing – as "mental athletes" or "warriors of the mind". Eventually, as he begins to believe his own propaganda, the championship becomes "an arms race of sorts". "The brain is a muscle," a mentor tells Foer. But his cerebrotonic workouts endow him with the ornamental, gym-cultivated biceps shown off by yuppie lawyers and gay hairstylists, whose occupations hardly require them to do heavy lifting.

Even more dismayingly, Foer seems to think that he carries a calculator on his shoulders: he suggests that if you "strip away the emotions, the philosophizing, the neuroses, and the dreams", then "our brains… are fundamentally prediction and planning machines". But who would want to strip away the sludge of feeling and fantasy that makes us human? Only a geek, for whom knowledge can be equated with a stock of useless data.

The grotesque array of professional rememberers lined up by Foer includes a fellow from Utah called Kim Peek, the inspiration for the character played by Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, who died in 2009. The "Kimputer", as this idiot savant called himself, was born with an oversize head that he dragged along the ground for the first three years of his life, as if the weight of its contents kept him from standing upright. His horrified parents entertained the idea of a lobotomy. But they spared their malformed offspring, who could instantly memorise whatever his eyes scanned, whether it was the text of a Shakespeare play or the telephone directory of some unknown city. Despite the library of factoids crammed into his buzzing skull, Kim had an IQ of only 87. He was at best a neurological oddity, rendered unfit for ordinary existence by his inability to select, edit or erase the information he indiscriminately absorbed. Here is the proof of a maxim that Foer quotes in a moment of rueful reflection: Proust demonstrates that to feel is to remember, but it's equally true, as Jorge Luis Borges points out in his story "Funes the Memorious", that "to think is to forget".

"Participatory journalism", which is how Foer classifies his book, requires the reporter to step into the frame as a performer, and he tries to keep us interested in his arid quizzes and numerical quirks by going on journeys to conduct interviews. He visits one expert in "a bright bungalow in suburban San Diego" and calls on another in "a plush office complex on the outskirts of Tallahassee"; he even manages a picturesque detour to Oxford, "one of the world's most storied centers of learning" where there are many "storied old buildings, with tall Gothic windows". A pity that his capacity for total recall didn't alert him to his slack or dozy stylistic repetitions.

Foer's self-improvement manual reads like the script for a reality TV series, so we are meant to experience a climactic thrill when a cable network "for the first time ever airs the Memory Championship on national television", devising "television-friendly 'elimination' events" to dramatise the dreary proceedings. Foer's win earns him invitations to fill a few minutes of otherwise empty air on early morning talk shows, though he understands how temporary his "newfound stardom" (or loserdom, depending on your perspective) actually is. After performing the tricks required of him, he is ushered off into oblivion; by telling the story all over again five years later, he is hoping to prolong his meagre allocation of fame and persuade the world to remember his name. But I have too much on my mind, and now intend to exercise my prerogative as a thinker by forgetting him.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/apr/17/moonwalking-einstein-joshua-foer-review

quinta-feira, 10 de novembro de 2011

Develop Perfect Memory With the Memory Palace Technique


The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all.

The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for instance, was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence (that’s 2808 cards), viewing each card only once. And there are countless other similar achievements attributed to people using the Memory Palace technique or variations of it. Even in fiction, there are several references to the technique. In Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal, for example, serial killer Hannibal Lecter uses Memory Palaces to store amazingly vivid memories of years of intricate patient records (sadly, it was left off the movie).

Of course, most of us are not in Dominic’s memory championship line of business (or in Hannibal’s line of business for that matter). But still, the Memory Palace technique is amazingly effective in all kinds of endeavors, such as learning a foreign language, memorizing a presentation you’re about to deliver, preparing for exams and many others — even if all you want is to jog your memory.

The Memory Palace
The Memory Palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. A ‘Memory Palace’ is a metaphor for any well-known place that you’re able to easily visualize. It can be the inside of your home, or maybe the route you take every day to work. That familiar place will be your guide to store and recall any kind of information. Let’s see how it works.

5 Steps to Use the Memory Palace Technique
1. Choose Your Palace
First and foremost, you’ll need to pick a place that you’re very familiar with. The effectiveness of the technique relies on your ability to mentally see and walk around in that place with ease. You should be able to ‘be there’ at will using your mind’s eye only.

A good first choice could be your own home, for example. Remember that the more vividly you can visualize that place’s details, the more effective your memorization will be.

Also, try to define a specific route in your palace instead of just visualize a static scene. So, instead of simply picturing your home, imagine a specific walkthrough in your home. This makes the technique much more powerful, as you’ll be able to recall items in a specific order, as we’ll see in the next step.

Here are some additional suggestions that work well as Memory Palaces, along with possible routes:

Familiar streets in your city. Possible routes could be your drive to work, or any other sequence of streets you’re familiar with.
A current or former school. You can imagine the pathway from the classroom to the library (or to the bar on the other side of the street, if that’s the route imprinted on your mind).
Place of work. Imagine the path from your cubicle to the coffee machine or to your boss’s office (it shouldn’t be hard to choose).
Scenery. Imagine walking on your neighborhood or the track you use when jogging in a local park.

2. List Distinctive Features
Now you need to pay attention to specific features in the place you chose. If you picked a walkthrough in your home, for example, the first noticeable feature would probably be the front door.

Now go on and mentally walk around your Memory Palace. After you go through the door, what’s in the first room?

Analyze the room methodically (you may define a standard procedure, such as always looking from left to right, for example). What is the next feature that catches your attention? It may be the central table in the dining room, or a picture on the wall.

Continue making mental notes of those features as you go. Each one of them will be a “memory slot” that you’ll later use to store a single piece of information.

3. Imprint the Palace on Your Mind
For the technique to work, the most important thing is to have the place or route 100% imprinted on your mind. Do whatever is necessary to really commit it to memory. If you’re a visual kind of person, you probably won’t have trouble with this. Otherwise, here are some tips that help:

Physically walk through the route repeating out loud the distinctive features as you see them.
Write down the selected features on a piece of paper and mentally walk through them, repeating them out loud.
Always look at the features from the same point of view.
Be aware that visualization is a just a skill. If you’re still having trouble doing this, you may want to develop your visualization skills first.
When you believe you’re done, go over it one more time. It’s really important to “overlearn” your way in your Memory Palace.
Once you’re confident that the route is stamped on your mind, you’re set. Now you have your Palace, which can be used over and over again to memorize just about anything you want.

4. Associate!
Now that you’re the master of your palace, it’s time to put it to good use.

Like most memory enhancement systems, the Memory Palace technique works with the use of visual associations. The process is simple: you take a known image — called the memory peg — and combine with the element you want to memorize. For us, each memory peg is a distinctive feature of our Memory Palace.

The memory pegging technique is the same one described in the article ‘Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language‘, so if you haven’t read it yet, I highly advise you to do so.

As described in that article, there’s a ‘right way’ of doing visual associations:

Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical — after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.
Although we can use the technique to memorize tons of information, let’s start with something very simple: using our ‘Home’ Memory Palace to memorize a groceries list. Let’s suppose the first item in that list is ‘bacon’:

Mentally transport yourself to your Memory Palace. The first feature you see in your mind is your home’s front door. Now, in a ludicrous way, visually combine ‘bacon’ with the sight of your front door. How about giant fried bacon strips flowing out from underneath the door reaching for your legs, just like zombies in those B-movies? Feel the touch of the “bacon hands” on your legs. Feel the smell of darn evil bacon. Is that remarkable enough?

Now open the door and keep walking, following the exact same route you defined before. Look at the next distinctive feature, and associate it with the second item to be memorized. Suppose the next item is ‘eggs’ and the second feature is ‘picture of mother-in-law’. Well, at this point you already know what to do… The process is always the same, so just keep mentally associating images until there are no items left to memorize.

5. Visit Your Palace
At this point, you are done memorizing the items. If you’re new to the technique, though, you’ll probably need to do a little rehearsal, repeating the journey at least once in your mind.

If you start from the same point and follow the same route, the memorized items will come to your mind instantly as you look at the journey’s selected features. Go from the beginning to the end of your route, paying attention to those features and replaying the scenes in your mind. When you get to the end of your route, turn around and walk in the opposite direction until you get to the starting point.

In the end, it’s all a matter of developing your visualization skills. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be and the more effective your memorization will be.

Final Thoughts
What I like about the Memory Palace (and other pegging methods) is that it’s not only extremely effective, but also quite fun to learn and use.

With just a little bit of experience, the lists you memorize using the Memory Palace will stay fresh in your mind for many days, weeks or even more.

Also have in mind that you can create as many palaces as you want, and that they can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make them. Each of them is a “memory bank”, ready to be used to help you memorize anything, anytime.

Associating physical locations with mental concepts is the most powerful memory combination I know. Most other memory techniques (supposedly more sophisticated than the Memory Palace) are, at least in part, based on the concept of physical locations being used as memory pegs.

Source: http://litemind.com/memory-palace/

quarta-feira, 9 de novembro de 2011

Teaching Spelling Strategies to ESL Students


Teaching spelling strategies to ESL students is challenging for instructors. Many of the inconsistencies of the English language with regards to word meaning and pronunciation are directly confronted by students when they begin to put words to paper. In addition, the homophonic, multi-syllabic nature of English can pose particular challenges to second language learners. Luckily, there are many tips and tricks to help instructors and students sharpen their spelling skills.

Some Tricks for Teaching Spelling Strategies to ESL Students
ESL students benefit from many of the same spelling strategies that instructors use with native English speaking populations. However, ESL students will inevitably require more time and practice when learning how to understand many of the spelling-related intricacies of the English language.

Using Memory Tricks or Mnemonics
Mnemonics are simple tricks students can use to help commit spelling words to memory. Associating the spelling of a word or part of a word with another word has proven to be a successful learning strategy. Providing students with some existing mnemonic examples will help them understand the concept, but students will be more successful if they create their own mnemonics for the words they have trouble spelling.

For ESL students, spelling mistakes are often caused by a simple misunderstanding of word meaning. Some words in English are homophonic, meaning they sound exactly the same as another word but have a different meaning. Other words differ very subtly in how they are pronounced. While these words are not truly homophonic, they still pose challenges for second language learners. These similar sounding words are less problematic for ESL students in spoken conversation, but become a source of frustration for them when they construct written sentences. Calling attention to some of the most common similar sounding words can help demystify this confusing aspect of the English language. Consider the following examples:

advise – Advise is a verb that means to counsel or suggest. Would you advise me to go to graduate school?
advice – Advice is a noun that means a suggestion or an opinion about a matter at hand. Ken gave be some good advice about going to graduate school.

conscious – Conscious is an adjective that means having knowledge of something or being aware or perceptive. During that long meeting I was barely conscious.
conscience – Conscience is a noun and means to have an inner feeling to guide you through questions of right and wrong. My conscience wouldn't let me take her money.

lead – Lead is a noun that refers to the dense, heavy metal. This table feels like it's made of lead.
led – Led is the past participle form of the verb lead and means to guide or direct. It was dark, but she led me across the field safely.

Try a Rhyming Helper
Rhyming is a classic spelling strategy for students of all ages. Rhyming a word or a part of a word with another word that is spelled the same is a great technique to help students learn.

spell, smell, fell, tell, shell
mess, dress, unless, guess
fist, gist, mist

These words are all spelled the same except for a different letter or two. Identifying how root sounds like this are spelled helps students quickly increase their spelling vocabularies.

Problem Parts
Unfortunately, there are certain words that defy logic in English. While native speakers unconsciously accept that the words good and food can be spelled the same way yet pronounced differently, ESL students are understandably troubled by these illogical facets of their target language. Students should make a list of troublesome words and isolate exactly where the problem parts are within the words. These areas need to be studied diligently and committed to memory.

restaurant
privilege
misspell

Focusing on the specific letters words that cause problems brings student's awareness to the source of the mistake and helps them to commit the proper spelling to memory.

Important Considerations for Students with Different Native Languages
Spelling is another of the many of ESL instruction areas where instructors run into the reality that there is no homogenized ESL student. Teaching spelling strategies to ESL students is complicated by the diversity of the demographic. Different students bring different native languages into the classroom. The interlanguages they create while they are in between their native language and their target language vary greatly depending on the phonetic, syntactic, semantic, and morphologic qualities of their native language.

A student whose native language is Spanish, for example, will face challenges with vowel sounds. Spanish uses a very static system with regards to how vowels are pronounced. The multitude of vowel sounds that English uses can cause particular spelling difficulties for native speakers of Spanish.

On the other hand, students whose first language is Chinese will likely face difficulties with the polysyllabic nature of English. Chinese is a monosyllabic language, meaning every word has only one syllable, so the act of spelling longer English words by sounding them out may be challenging for these students.

As an instructor, it is important to constantly be aware that the ESL experience varies greatly for every student, particularly when they speak different native languages.

Source: http://www.yourdictionary.com