Propped up by a mug of hot green tea and citrus, I was sitting at the computer by 6:45 getting ready to join the latest iTDi webinar with more than 100 other ELT professionals from around the world. It was so nice to see so many familiar names and great to have a chance to interact live if only a tiny bit.(There was the webinar to attend to, you know!)
The webinar was great. Each of the presenters made great points that I'll be mulling over for some time, and all three complemented each other.
|Decidedly NOT high-tech. (From Wikipedia.)|
Penny Ur discussed several topics, but I especially appreciated her comments on vocabulary. She noted that vocabulary knowledge is:
- the major determiner of level of proficiency
- the major determiner of students' ability to understand a text
- FAR MORE IMPORTANT than grammar (those are her capital letters!)
Given my nascent learning about how grammar and vocabulary are deeply intertwined, this makes sense to me. Thoroughly studying a word and its collocations in a specific context brings grammar out.
Penny's bottom line on vocabulary was: probably about one-third of our teaching time needs to be devoted to vocabulary-focused activity. Although I have recently learned that vocabulary needs to play a bigger role in lessons than it typically does, I was a bit fuzzy about how much bigger. Now here's something to work with! I'm really tempted to buy Penny's book, which includes many suggestions for vocabulary review activities.
John Fanselow built on both Penny and Scott's comments. Regarding technology, he strongly recommended the use of recording devices in the classroom. Like Scott, he supported technology kept simple (no more than is needed). He also supported the learning of vocabulary in context and demonstrated how learners can develop personal symbols for the brick and mortar words (function and content words) and then map sentence patterns out using the symbols. Again, grammar and vocabulary are meshed together: every time a learner uses a symbol, they're productively recalling the word in the context of a sentence. At the same time, they're discovering the patterns that are grammar. I can see using flashcards with a symbol string on one side and a sentence on the other.
I haven't done justice to all that was said, which is why it's worth checking the webinar out for yourself! Go to iTDi.pro, they'll be posting a link there. Also: these and other great teachers are scheduled to teach courses via iTDi in the near future. I probably can't take all of them, so now I've got the tough task of narrowing it down!