Straw men

Someone posted another diatribe against communicative teaching, citing the contents of a current textbook thus:

Subject: Acquisition vs. Learning


1. “conversational gambit

2. fill in the blank/listening (7-10)

3. fill in the blank (7-10)

4. intermediate confusing practice (7-10)

5. killer conversation with many variables…..

Is THIS supposed to be communicative teaching? Maybe the reason teachers neither like communicative teaching nor understand it is they have never seen it. This writer went on to claim that L2 can be learned only by tons of learning and practice. By ’learning’ we can assume the writer means studying grammar rules and by ’practice’ we can assume the repetition of sentences in L2 applying those rules.

But for those opposed to communicative teaching, sold on the idea that we learn languages in classrooms only by analytic study of structures and some sort of practice using them, prefer these straw men. What is puzzling is how someone could take a popular textbook and use it as an example of communicative teaching. Textbooks are designed to appeal to a broad spectrum and so have a mix of all sorts of things.

This is why it appears that we are still producing teachers coming out of universities with the following expectations:

Here is a quote from a tprs teacher facing young student teachers:

The observing

student teacher is not as negative as she was before but still is very

skeptical that we don’t do grammar sheets for homework each night.

Grammar sheets????!!!! What more could a cognitive code teacher want? Pin the ending on the verb. How communicative (that’s sarcasm). Apparently only certain teachers are open to communicative teaching. Many of them are converting to tprs. I am not aware of any organized movement for communicative teaching other than tprs. They have a listserv and many websites. If anyone knows of any movement with the heft to it that tprs has, let me know. I would love to investigate it.

Once I started teaching fl, 20 years ago, I quickly discovered that students retained and used language that was used in a situation of communication. All my carefully crafted grammar activities had little impact. Then an ESL admin loaned me two tapes of lectures by Krashen. I began reading the literature on communicative teaching that had exploded in the 80s. Gradually, I shifted over to communicative teaching, after my own fashion. It was hard. That is one reason I think tprs is successful: despite being a grammar-based curriculum, its technique is communication. With all the backup support available to teachers, it offers a movement to ride on as opposed to being out there by yourself.

Here’s an interesting quote to end with (from the moretprs List):

“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct

them to it by what amuses their minds.” ~~ Plato (427 BC – 347 BC)

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