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‘Young’ words

Two teenage boys in hoodies

Kieran McGovern strikes out against youth culture and the decline of the English language with his Top 10 most annoying words in common use amongst today’s youths – with a word of warning to those… not-so-young.

Words are like clothes in that there are some that are only really suited to the young.

Here’s my top ten verbal equivalents of short skirts, low cut trousers and hoodies. These should be avoided by anyone over the age of… well, you decide.

  1. Dude – meaning: male person. Has become pretty universal amongst young Americans and increasingly in the UK, too. A great word with a long pedigree, like a baseball cap it does not suit greying hair.
  2. Awesome! – should only be used for that which truly inspires awe. This does not include the a new cover for your mobile phone.
  3. Banging (great) safe (excellent) ‘hood (neighbourhood) homie (friend) – this job lot of street slang is the private property of teenagers. Sounding like a wannabe gangster is inexcusable if you have a mortgage.
  4. Cool! – the exclamation mark is the line in the sand here. Describing something as ‘pretty cool’ is acceptable but not squealing c-o-ol!
  5. Wicked – (meaning great) Life is complex enough without calling bad things good and vice versa.
  6. Chillin – perhaps a controversial one but I think the world would be a better place without the phrase ‘chill out’.
  7. Skank – horrible word meaning someone of low class, sometimes also used to suggest sexual promiscuousness. Don’t use, ever!
  8. Gay – meaning rubbish, as in ‘that’s so gay!’ As used in the school playground it doesn’t generally have a sexual connotation, but best avoided.
  9. OMG, LOL etc – I know they’ve just entered the OED but there is something a little embarrassing about ageing fingers typing this kind of text short-hand.
  10. Whatever! – this is irritating enough coming from truculent teenagers, unacceptable from anyone old enough to vote.

What do you think? Am I being unfair? A language despot? Or are there more words you’d like to add?

Kieran McGovern blogs at English Language FAQ.

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Connectivism: A Theory of Learning for a Digital Age

Collectivism word cloudIn this guest post, Thomas Baker, a teacher and teacher trainer in Chile, and President of TESOL Chile, introduces the concept of digital connectivism and the impact it has on teachers and students of the English language.

[Image courtesy of wlonline, via Flickr]

Connectivism has been called, “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” (Siemens, 2005).  I aim to share what I have learned about connectivism,  and what it means for English Language Teaching.

What I share comes from a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) called, Connectivism and Connected Knowledge 2011 (CCK11).  The course facilitators are George Siemens and Stephen Downes.  Siemens first wrote about connectivism in 2005.  Since then, he and Downes have worked together to develop the theory and practice of connectivism.  The CCK11 course is where I enter the picture, as a learner and EFL teacher.

In this post, I will do three things:

  1. Define connectivism.
  2. State the principles of connectivism.
  3. Relate connectivism to EFL teaching.

Before I begin, I add that I am sharing what I have understood in CCK11. Therefore, I alone am responsible for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this post, and not George Siemens or Stephen Downes.

1.  Connectivism is defined as, “a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized.

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Keeping the vision alive: Completing the loop

Female student at a desk smilingAccording to Atkinson & Raynor (1974), our decision to do something is influenced by a force which is the product of the value attached to the goal and success expectancy, and these have been the most researched factors in the area of motivation. When one or the other is zero, there is no motivation to perform an action. In my previous posts, I have considered motivation to be a ‘process whereby a certain amount of instigation force arises, initiates action, and persists as long as no other force comes into play to weaken it and thereby terminate action, until the planned outcome has been reached’ (Dörnyei, 1998).

Our learners will value and be more attentive to what happens in the classroom if they can perceive the link between a short-term lesson goal and their long-term goal. With a relevant short- term goal in place, we keep a learner’s vision alive, increase success-expectancy and encourage learners to use appropriate strategies to complete a task. We can then offer informative feedback, acknowledging progress and providing pointers to future action for further improvement. In this way, we encourage learners to persist by actively engaging them in the learning process, we provide them with the means to further success and we drive intrinsic motivation and effective learning. When we consider how we might realise value and success expectancy in the language classroom, it becomes apparent that the whole might be bigger than the sum of the parts.

Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series.

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7 Tips for Teaching Speaking for Academic Purposes at Graduate Level – Part 2

Two female students in graduation robesFollowing on from her first post, which explored the importance of conducting a needs analysis and building a supportive learning environment, Li-Shih Huang, Associate Professor at the University of Victoria, Canada, shares her next two top tips for teaching conversation skills to EAL learners.

In my previous post, I shared the first two tips, which serve as the foundation for teaching academic conversation skills to graduate EAL students. Many instructors wonder how to promote the transferability of skills that students use in class to outside-the-classroom, real-life contexts. In this post, I will move on to my list’s next two tips, which help promote the transfer of learning and skill development.

Tip 3: Link tasks to real-world activities

One key way to make learning meaningful and relevant in the classroom is to link pedagogical tasks to what learners will be doing outside the classroom. For graduate EAL students, participation in academic dialogues typically involves or will involve the following settings:

  • interpersonal one-on-one communications;
  • small group interactions;
  • seminars or class discussions;
  • departmental presentations;
  • teaching in the classroom; and
  • conference presentations and beyond (e.g., job talks, teaching demonstrations, and interviews).

Linking tasks that learners need to perform in those typical settings to class activities not only motivates learning because of the tasks’ perceived relevance and practicality; it also promotes the transfer of the language and strategies learned in the classroom to post-class, real-life contexts. For example, a task that involves meeting with a student during office hours to discuss a grade provides an opportunity for learners to experiment with ways to deal with this common scenario. Another example is involving learners when clarifying a key concept, something that graduate EAL students often must do in their roles as teaching assistants, as participants in departmental meetings, or as speakers at conferences. Such a task first of all provides the speaker an opportunity to practice providing explanations through the use of techniques such as the following:

  • stating a definition in formal and lay person’s terms;
  • using practical examples that listeners can relate to;
  • linking a concept to the speaker’s personal experience;
  • using an analogy with some concept that the listeners already know;
  • providing comparison and contrast;
  • referencing a word’s origin; and
  • offering visual illustrations of a term.

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Party Mix: Engaging teenage learners

Group of teenagers at a partyIn this guest post, Anna Musielak, a Gimnazjum (Lower Secondary) teacher and teacher trainer from Poland, tells us how she coped with teaching teenagers and gives her tips for how to engage this troublesome age group. Feel free to follow Anna on Twitter (@AnnaMusielak).

Teaching teens is a very challenging job. They are extremely hard to please and it is our role as teachers to provide them with tasks and activities that will be interesting, motivating and effective. Of course, our teenage students very often decide to make our life, well… living hell!

When I taught Gimnazjum students I very often felt like screaming. There were days that I could (literally) stand on my head and they would still say the lesson sucked… But there were those precious moments when I got to them, when the lesson was so interesting that they forgot to moan and complain and just took part in it!

The key, in my opinion, is to introduce a variety of animated and efficient exercises that motivate students of mixed abilities and help them learn and reinforce the material. The activities have to be engaging and directed to all students – those better at English and those who struggle with it.

Of course, it helps a lot when we have an idea what our teenage students are into. For some it will be the Twilight Saga, for others Facebook, and for some, playing Guitar Hero. It is our role to find out about their passions and hobbies – by doing so, we prove to our students that we are genuinely interested in their lives. Obviously, I don’t mean channeling your inner rock star or coming to the classroom plugged into your iPod. I just think that knowing a bit about our students’ activities outside school gives us a perception of their temperamental life and, what’s more, helps us understand them better.

There is one activity that always works with my Gimnazjum students – I call it Party Mix. It does not require a lot of preparation from the teachers (one of the biggest advantages when conducting a lesson) and gives freedom to the learners.

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