In our main feature, Martin Bastkowski outlines his vision for more efficient teaching, in which simple techniques and routines save time and effort on the part of teachers, thus freeing up more opportunities for learning and allowing everyone to focus on the job in hand, rather than wasting time hunting for old worksheets or trying to remember activities used successfully in the past.
Efficiency would seem to be a worthwhile goal for both teachers and learners. In an unusual article which compares language learning with the process that London’s ‘black cab’ drivers go through in order to obtain their licences (known as ‘doing the Knowledge’), Nick Howlett compares the techniques that the taxi drivers use to memorise hundreds of routes and thousands of points of interest with those that may, or perhaps should, be used by students to ensure efficient language learning of a similarly huge number of words and structures.
Thomas Ziegelwagner finds that the most efficient way of correcting his students’ mispronunciation of certain letter combinations is to show them commercials on YouTube and allow the students to identify the pronunciation mistakes made by the voiceover artists. He finds this technique more memorable and effective than continually correcting the students and demonstrating the correct pronunciation himself. Faced with a similar problem, Graham Burton recommends the teaching of graphemes as an efficient way of ensuring that students take the knowledge they have of the pronunciation of letter combinations in one word and apply it to words with a similar spelling.
Ben Naismith mentions efficiency in terms of selecting from the vast number available those words that will actually help the students to make their language use more sophisticated. With exams such as IELTS now including lexical sophistication in their assessment criteria, the need to identify those words that are most likely to impress the examiners and also most likely to be of use to the students outside the classroom or exam hall, calls for an efficient way of prioritising and selecting the vocabulary to be taught.
Of course, it is often the students who know best what works for them. As part of his exploitation of a charming tale from Malaysia involving a crocodile and a wily mouse-deer, David Heathfield discovers that many students take the crocodile in the story as a metaphor for the English language: a problem they have to overcome. He uses this to encourage a discussion amongst the students in which they share the learning strategies that are most effective for them.
As this is our January issue, may I wish you a happy, prosperous – and efficient – new teaching year?