When, many years ago, I returned to the UK from six years in Japan, a friend of my parents looked at my photos of lavishly decorated temples, colourful festivals, steaming volcanoes and lush tropical landscapes and sighed. ‘Ah,’ she said, ‘there’s nothing new under the sun!’ I’ve never really understood why she said this – or what exotic parts of the UK were familiar to her but completely unknown to me. However, her comment came to mind when I was editing the articles for this issue of ETp. Despite the staggering amount of new technology that is being developed on a daily basis to help language teachers and their students, it is clear that some of the basics still hold true, and much that is new is building on the foundations of things that have been around for a very long time.
Everyone likes an instant fix, and from time to time, products or techniques are dangled in front of us with the promise that they, and they alone, hold the key to language learning. How are teachers to tell those things that are genuinely helpful from those that merely demonstrate what technology can do, rather than what it should do? Time will tell whether such things as data analytics and adaptive learning have a positive or negative effect on our profession, but those of us who detect the unmistakable whiff of snake oil may take comfort from the thought that the activities and techniques that genuinely work in the classroom, which promote rapport and communication between teachers and students and which are truly helpful in the learning process will stand the test of time.
Magda Tebbutt and Tim Strike remind us of a number of fun language learning games. Some of these will already be known to many readers but, as Madga and Tim point out, it does no harm to be reminded of old favourites from time to time
Sasha Wajnryb bases his article on the dictogloss technique, popularised by his own mother in the late 1980s. And in celebration of this, we have a photocopiable dictogloss activity in the Scrapbook, which combines the technique with an intriguing brainteaser.
David Heathfield’s article centres on what must be the oldest teaching technique of all – storytelling – and it comes with a charming old folktale for you to tell to your students and then encourage them to re-tell to each other.
Alan Maley looks at books about landscape, many of which link the past to the present by drawing the reader’s attention to those features of the landscape that give us a glimpse of past lives and the historical events that took place there.
Finally, in our main feature, Lindsay Clandfield offers some new labels for the old practice of labelling lesson plans. He gets to the heart of what the students are actually doing at each phase of the lesson – so perhaps ‘plus ça change’ isn’t quite ‘la même chose’, after all.
Also in this issue:
Try some more of Alex Case’s board games, designed to encourage your students to attempt greater linguistic sophistication.
Take Ming Wong’s advice on caring for your voice.
Consider following Laura Nanna’s lead in flipping the classroom and producing a video of your local area.
Read how Chris Roland fine-tunes the activities he uses with his young learners to ensure they work smoothly.