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English Teaching Forum Volume 54, Number 2
What is a mind map? How can you use concept mind mapping, collaborative mapping, and human mind mapping in your classroom? Find out in the latest issue of English Teaching Forum.

What is a mind map? How can you use concept mind mapping, collaborative mapping, and human mind mapping in your classroom? Find out in the latest issue of English Teaching Forum.

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Table of Contents

Listening Journals for Extensive and Intensive Listening PracticeExpand
As a language learner, I have found that one of the most difficult skills to contend with is listening. I was never taught how to listen. It was simply assumed that listening skills would be naturally acquired. For my first few years as an English as a foreign language teacher, I assumed the same. However, as I reflected on my own language-learning experiences and those of my students, I rethought this assumption. I did more research on listening instruction, and,not surprisingly, I learned that listening in a second language is not something that is just picked up.
 
Instead, the research points to it as a demanding cognitive task that requires a breadth and depth of exposure that neither I nor my students had been given. Through the research, I also realized that my language teachers and I were not the only ones who had made some poor assumptions. 
 
It seems that throughout the history of English language teaching (ELT), most students have never been taught how to listen. According to Thorn (2009), most listening is done for non-listening purposes, such as introducing grammar or vocabulary, for discussion, for testing comprehension (but not actually to learn how to comprehend), and for familiarity with different accents. Rarely will someone claim to use listening in class “to train students to listen more effectively” (Thorn 2009, 9). According to Brown (2011, 36), “playing audio and asking comprehension questions, or even playing audio and asking students to complete tasks, is merely testing.” Therefore, a great deal of listening practice focuses on testing listening, not teaching it. Testing a skill without first teaching it would not be acceptable for reading, writing, or speaking, and therefore it should not be acceptable for listening.
 
When listening instruction does occur, it is mostly a top-down approach. Thorn (2009) again points out that the focus is on schema building, gist, and guessing, not the words and sounds that actually make listening challenging. Furthermore, the listening texts themselves often pose a problem—Thorn (2009) believes that most texts are uninteresting from the students’ perspective, lack natural language features (e.g., linking or elision), and utilize one standard accent. None of this prepares students very well for the real-world listening challenges they will encounter.
 
While these methods of listening instruction still remain the dominant paradigm in ELT, they are slowly changing. Based on my experience as a language learner, on second- language listening research, and on some newer trends in listening instruction, I have designed a method that uses listening journals to deal with the challenges of learning to listen in a second language. This article introduces the concept of listening journals and explains how teachers can use them to focus on both the extensive and intensive aspects of listening in order to help students improve their overall listening skills.
 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full article.)

Author: Anthony Schmidt
Format: Text
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Using Freewriting to Make Sense of LiteratureExpand
For a 2015 workshop with pre- and in-service secondary school English teachers in New Delhi, we asked our colleagues to bring a short text from their curriculum to anchor the day’s activities. They arrived with a copy of Stephen Spender’s poem “An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum”; the fourth and final stanza reads as follows:
 
Unless, governor, teacher, inspector, visitor,
This map becomes their window and these windows
That shut upon their lives like catacombs,
Break O break open ’till they break the town  
And show the children green fields and make their world
Run azure on gold sands, and let their tongues
Run naked into books, the white and green leaves open
History is theirs whose language is the sun. (Stephen Spender Trust 2015)
 
The text, the teachers explained, was required reading for twelfth-graders (senior secondary) and, for their students and for themselves, a struggle. Part of the challenge for teachers of English as a foreign language (EFL) working with a literature-based curriculum is striking a balance between teaching the text or series of texts and creating opportunities for communicative interaction. To begin with, a poem such as Spender’s is hard to read. The syntax is unconventional—e.g., “History is theirs whose language is the sun”; so too is theimagery Spender employs—e.g., “… and let their tongues/Run naked into books, the white and green leaves open.” Often, students simply want to know what the poem means—or is supposed to mean. Obligingly, teachers explain line by line, stanza by stanza, with a culminating series of comprehension questions, frequently in a multiple-choice format. If students still do not “get it,” they turn to the Internet in search of an explanation; and, in the case of the Spender poem, a recent Google search for “An elementary school classroom in a slum analysis” rendered 13,400 results. We argue, however, that in a communicative teaching paradigm, it is not enough to teach what the teacher believes the poem to mean—or what someone told us it means. Rather, reading complex texts is an opportunity for students to engage in deeply personal meaning-making processes.

 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full article.)

Authors: Spencer Salas, Kyra Garson, Shweta Khanna, and Beth Murray
Format: Text
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Using Concept Mapping to Teach Young EFL Learners Reading SkillsExpand
Many English as a foreign language (EFL) students fail to be effective readers because they lack knowledge of vocabulary and appropriate reading strategies. We believe that teaching proper reading strategies can help second-language learners overcome their reading problems, especially when the instruction begins in elementary school. Effective reading strategies “provide the means to tackle complex problems in more efficient ways” and allow students to build a “path to comprehension” (McNamara 2009, 34). One effective strategy is concept mapping, which is the use of visual tools to help readers understand material by transferring “the written content into concrete images” (Liu, Chen, and Chang 2010, 442). Through concept-mapping activities, learners connect previously learned and newly learned ideas onto a visual representation, or “map.” Research shows that concept maps have positive effects on children’s language skills; for example, Liu et al. (2011) describe how concept mapping “prompts learners to reflect to construct meaning based on their observations and knowledge,” thereby helping “students develop and apply the knowledge about storytelling” (873). In this article, we describe two reading lessons that use concept mapping to produce beneficial effects for elementary school students.
 
BACKGROUND
Concept mapping is related to the pedagogical theory of constructivism, which asserts that productive learning occurs when students create meaning on their own by connecting previous knowledge and experience with newly formed knowledge and experience. According to Kalhor and Shakibaei (2012), concept mapping (1) helps students understand the framework of the subject being taught; (2) clarifies the relationships and connections among all instructional content; (3) reinforces knowledge retention; and (4) enhances an instructor’s teaching objectives. Anderson (1991) stresses the importance of describing reading strategies for students (e.g., visualization and applying background knowledge and experience) and of showing learners how to use them. Therefore, when it comes to teaching EFL reading, it is crucial for a teacher to act as facilitator to help learners construct their own meaning as they apply their current knowledge to new ideas.
 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full article.)

Authors: Adeline Teo, Yun F. Shaw, Jimmy Chen, and Derek Wang
Format: Text
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Reader's GuideExpand
This guide is designed to enrich your reading of the articles in this issue. You may choose to read them on your own, taking notes or jotting down answers to the discussion questions below. Or you may use the guide to explore the articles with colleagues.
 
For example, many teachers discuss Forum at regularly scheduled meetings with department colleagues and members of teachers’ groups, or in teacher-training courses and workshops. Often, teachers choose an article for their group to read before the meeting or class, then discuss that article when they meet. Teachers have found it helpful to take notes on articles or write a response to an article and bring that response to share in a discussion group. Another idea is for teachers to try a selected activity or technique described in one of the articles, then report back to the group on their experiences and discuss positives, negatives, and possible adaptations for their teaching context.

(Download the attached PDF to read the full Reader's Guide.)

 

Format: Text
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Teaching Techniques: Audiovisual Feedback in EFL/ESL Writing ClassesExpand
As an English teacher preparing students for university-level work in academic English, I have spent many hours poring over essays, red pen in hand. The process of reading and correcting was always time intensive and grueling, and the results were usually as disheartening for me as they were discouraging for the emerging writers who composed the essays. Not only that, but the same problems would reappear later, the whole demoralizing process repeated through the draft, feedback, and revision process, assignment after assignment. 
 
In my search for a better way, I have tried most of the standard techniques to give effective feedback to my students while decreasing the amount of time spent writing such feedback. Whether handwritten or submitted electronically, the waves of essays kept coming, multiplied by regular increases in class size, and I sought any technique or innovation that would allow me to fit my family life into the troughs between the peaks. I used rubrics and handouts of abbreviations and proofreading symbols, some standard, some of my own invention. I created an array of Microsoft Word macros that I could access with the press of a key to insert such feedback as “This is a comma splice. A comma splice is when you connect two independent clauses using a comma, and it can be corrected in several ways. See page XX in your textbook for further information.” Finally, I went minimalist and only circled or highlighted areas that needed attention, requiring students to visit me during office hours or consult with me during class time when they couldn’t figure out their errors. Usually though, if students couldn’t correct their mistakes on their own or by asking me in class, they would take a random stab at correcting their mistakes, not having the time or desire to make a special trip to visit me during office hours for an explanation. However, during the moments I spent with the few who did come to visit me for face-to-face feedback, I felt like I made the biggest impact, and both the quantity of the feedback and the quality of the experience were incomparably superior to those of any written feedback I had ever given. Not only that, but I was able to deliver better feedback in much less time than it would have taken to write it. I wished that there were a way to deliver that experience to all my students. That’s when I discovered Jing.
 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full Teaching Techniques.)

Author: William J. Woodard
Format: Text
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Teaching Techniques: Using the Power of Language to Foster CommunityExpand
The process of learning a second language requires vulnerability, and vulnerability demands trust. To put students into a language-learning environment where they are unsure of their abilities, do not know their classmates, and are getting a grade for their performance can lead to an atmosphere of hesitation and fear. It has been said that “words are the voice of the heart” (Confucius), and to ask our students to allow others to see their inner thoughts and heart is a hefty request and one that should be approached delicately and with intentionality.
 
One way to create a safe environment for sharing, collaborating, and vulnerability is to foster an authentic community within the English as a second language (ESL) classroom. This does not need to be something we must add to our list of things to do but rather something that, with a bit of thoughtfulness in our planning, can be cultivated through the practice of the English language.
 
I have used a lesson on adjectives to promote a sense of community while reinforcing the ability of students to use adjectives authentically. This activity can be adapted for use with adults and children alike. This particular lesson was done in Los Angeles, California, with an adult group of beginning, intermediate, and advanced ESL learners from diverse backgrounds and nationalities. I taught a standard lesson on adjectives with presentation, practice, and production phases. However, in the production phase, I tweaked the activity to give my students the chance to use language to empower one another. I spoke to my students about the power of language and how easily it can be used to either build up or tear down others. Furthermore, we discussed how we are all one community working towards the same goal, albeit with our own individual struggles, and how as a class we need to encourage one another in the process.
 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full Teaching Technique.)

Author: Christa Bixby
Format: Text
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Teaching Techniques: Human Mind MapsExpand
When students generate mind maps, the maps are usually on paper, computer screens, or a blackboard. Here is a way for your class to create a Human Mind Map. 
 
Human Mind Maps require few resources and little preparation. The main requirements are space where students can move around and a little creativity and imagination. 
 
The technique works best if students are already familiar with mind maps (sometimes called concept maps). They should also have knowledge of a set of terms or concepts related to a particular topic. Before you begin the activity, select a topic. It could be one the class has just studied—perhaps weather, the environment, or your school. Then follow these steps:
 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full Teaching Technique.)

Author: Tom Glass
Format: Text
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My Classroom: BurmaExpand
If you are an English teacher in Upper Burma, particularly in Mandalay, you probably know Nyein Ei San. Ms. San has been active in the English language teaching (ELT) community in Burma for the past decade, teaching English as a foreign language and training English teachers in her local community. Ms. San works as what is commonly considered a private teacher. Being a private teacher in Burma means that she is not affiliated with a single school, but instead teaches at multiple institutions.
 
Ms. San realized she wanted to teach English when she was a university student, through an unusual situation. “Most of my friends were my students, as they did not understand the lessons our teachers taught,” she said. “And from that time on, I tried to find teaching methods to make my friends understand more. It was then that I realized that I wanted to become an English teacher.” 
 
Still, even though she had chosen her career, Ms. San had to overcome many obstacles on her professional journey. For example, during her time at Mandalay University, the university was frequently closed down, so often that it took her more than ten years to finish her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Yet Ms. San persisted; during the multiple university closings, she instead visited the local American Center in Mandalay to work on her English. No challenge could have changed her goal of becoming an English teacher.
 
 

(Download the attached PDF to read the full My Classroom text.)

Author: Marie Snider
Format: Text
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Try This: Collaborative Mind MappingExpand
LEVEL: Intermediate to Advanced
 
TIME REQUIRED: 45–60 minutes
 
GOALS: To practice alternative ways of brainstorming and activating learner knowledge; to collaborate with classmates on discovering the potentials of career choices; to reinforce vocabulary related to jobs and careers; to engage in self-discovery related to career interests
 
MATERIALS: Chalk and blackboard ormarkers and poster paper; pens and paper; tape
 
OVERVIEW: A mind map is a type of ideas to be written and linked to related ideas on a “map.” Imagine the central idea in the middle of the paper with related ideas connected to the central idea as well as to other ideas. When students step back and look at a mind map, they have a clear visual representation of how their ideas are connected.
 
This activity can be used to brainstorm ideas, develop existing ideas for projects and activities, or review content students have learned. The example below uses the topic of jobs and careers to demonstrate how the activity works; however, you can use the activity for other topics that fit your students’ needs and interests. In this case, students will start with a job or career that interests them, work together to compile what they collectively know about each job, and finish with a brief writing activity.
 

(Download the attached PDF to access the full Try This exercise.)

Author: Melissa Mendelson
Format: Text
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The Lighter Side: A Maps Mind MapExpand
Below is a mind map about maps. Your job is to fill in the blanks to complete the mind map. (A mind map is a graphic organizer that shows how ideas can be connected and grouped together.)
 
Unscramble the Map Words in the column on the left to spell words that are related to maps: there are four directions, four natural features (such as mountains), and five features made by humans (such as streets). Then use those words to fill in the blanks in the Mind Map.
 
For example, “TESTERS” can be unscrambled to spell “STREETS.” And STREETS can then be written in the box marked “Features Made by Humans.”
 
Now see if you can unscramble the other words and place each in the proper box in the Mind Map.
 

(Download the attached PDF for the full Mind Map exercise and answer key.)

 

Format: Text
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International Subscriptions: English Teaching Forum is distributed through U.S. embassies. If you would like to subscribe to the print version of English Teaching Forum, please contact the Public Affairs or Cultural Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in your country.
 
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