Input Output ESL Teaching: From a Distance.....

On Input Output ESL Teaching:

"...At first glance, many of our textbooks, handouts, and quizzes appear well structured, comprehensible and in line with some popular theories of learning. On closer examination, though, we can discover how our first glance shows only part of the picture just as a closer examination of the world reveals a bit less beauty, harmony and hope than the lyrics in From a distance...suggest. But the words from a distance, ironically, provide us all with a perspective to analyze our materials and what we do with them in ways that strip away our emotional attachment to materials and practices we have grown attached to. All too often we are so close to what we do that we cannot detach ourselves and analyze materials and practices. During the workshops, I will remind you of ways you analyze other aspects of your lives with detachment--from a distance--and how to apply this day-to-day analysis of what wedo outside of our classrooms to what we do inside of our classrooms."

--Dr. John F. Fanselow

(Pictured: The Japanese countryside by Paul Canosa)

Input Output ESL Teaching -- Strikes a Chord

It is interesting how certain lectures and lecturers strikea chord with you, almost like they can see into you and your beliefs. Dr. Fanselow`s lectures felt like that with me.I could almost say the next words that would come out of his mouth I was so in tune to his opinions.

Fanselow emphasized that teachers should give as little information as possible to their students. "We always try to be so helpful," he said. Teachers remind students of what they already know.

He talked of those "Aha!" moments when great discoveries have been made.

Input Output ESL Teaching -- Aha Moments!

Fanselow seems to feel that teachers should strive to create those "Aha!" moments for students by setting up situations and opportunities that will lead to one. He felt that homework was a great opportunity for "Aha!" moments as many of those moments throughout history have occurred away from the classroom in the case of study, and away from work in the case of inventions or new business discoveries.

Input Output ESL Teaching -- Harold Palmer

Harold Palmer is someone that Dr. Fanselow admires and suggested that we should all read what this, great man has written. Palmer too, taught for many years in Japan.

Student input should not be underestimated. Don`t be too helpful. Let students figure things out themselves. These were some of the gold nuggets of wisdom Fanselow was handing out for free in his lectures. Ideas perhaps we innately know, but nevertheless, forget.

One activity that he suggested was to have students read a portion of the textbook, turn it over, and have students say what they think they read, then compare what students have said by writing it on the board. Often their answers are more creative and rich than what is in the textbook,and equally or often more valid in terms of meaning.

(Pictured: a hazy view of Mount Fuji by Paul Canosa)

Input Output ESL Teaching -- Filming our Classes

Fanselow encouraged us to film or tape record our classes.The knowledge we can gain from this is very valuable. We often don`t know what is really going on in our classes as we are too close to the action to really see. We often think students understand what we are saying, when they really don`t.

Being a big proponent of observing ourselves and recording ourselves in action, Fanselow proceeded to present some of the classes he observed to show some common mistakes that teachersmake:

Teacher: "Sometimes you walk in the street late at night when you`re in the situation, how do you feel?"

Student: "I feel peaceful."

Teacher: "You`re terrified."

Student: "Yes."

Notice how the teacher totally negated what the student said she or he felt, and imposed what the teacher wanted the student to feel. How often do you do that as a teacher?

Fanselow emphasized that he didn`t want to find fault with teachers but that he wanted us to learn from what we are actually doing in the classroom and not what we think we are doing. "Film your class. Type out the dialogue. Then change a few things. Have students write what they think you`re saying."

Three minutes of recording and transcribing is perhaps all that is needed to really get a good understanding of yourself as a teacher he feels. Discover what rules you are following and play with them.

He stated that most of our questions to students are yes/no type, one word answer type questions--perhaps as much as 95%. He argued that we should strive to ask questions that don`t just have one answer. He seems to feel we need to bring out the creativity in our students and indeed in our teaching of them.

One of the activities we did with Dr. Fanselow was to interpret a series of drawings, letters and numbers mixed together to form a sentence. We all tried to answer what the sentence said, and Fanselow, stated that all answers were correct. So multiple interpretations were okay and to be encouraged.

I need to learn to draw, I thought, as I listened to Dr. Fanselow.

Indeed there are many creative activities we can do in the classroom. How often do we bother to do them? How many times do we just stick to the safe and narrow of our textbook?

One teacher asked will Japanese students really be able to handle these activities. After all, they have been drilled by rote memorization from age 13. Can they really do it?

Fanselow said they could, and that you can introduce activities like these little by little--when you have three minutes left inclass for example. So do it in small bits and then slowly increase it. Once students realize they can do it, they will take off, and hopefully, have some "Aha!" moments along the way.

Dr. Fanselow was very accomodating and I`m certain that if you are interested in learning more about his creative activities,he would be thrilled to send you them. He can be contacted through Akita University, or Columbia University`s Teachers College.

If Dr. Fanselow lectures near you, don`t miss it! You owe it to your students!

Watch input output ESL teaching in action. In this video Dr. Fanselow shows us his unique teaching method.

From input output ESL teaching to teaching spoken English in Japan.

From input output esl teaching to How to teach English in Japan (home)