Mar 16, 2012

Structured Interaction

Structured Interaction Method
SpeakYourMind needs to stand as a real alternative - so often I hear or read it judged according to sets of standards or principles that simply don't apply.

So often students get caught between the hard work of 'arid drills and study’ (grammar-based book-and board methods and audiolingual methods (often confusingly called ‘direct methods’)), and the attractive vagaries of theme-orientated CLT.

Finding a middle way – a balance that can harness a principled approach towards lexis and recycling and yet creates contexts and trigger meaningful interaction - is what we have been working on for the best part of twenty years and it continues to be a fascinating journey.

Extended recycling of lexis and grammar is essential, especially in situations where learners are getting only two or three hours a week and little or no exposure to English outside their classrooms. It is essential both in terms of making learning efficient and in terms of maintaining motivation – learners can see how what they have learnt before was worth learning and thus gain a sense of achievement. The design of the SyM teaching material ensures that recycling occurs regularly, long-term: learning is seen as a part of an continuous process rather than presenting 'the language to be learnt' in a succession of one-off episodes.

There seems to be no doubt that frequency-of-use is a primary factor in how memory stores vocabulary, but it doesn't come down to mathematics. Quantity is important - if a word is given exposure ten times it is more likely to be remembered than if it is heard or read five times -but ‘quality’ will have a significant impact too. If the encounter with a new word is able to summon up significant associations of some kind, the impression is more likely to be lasting. An association can be significant in different ways – in terms of personal or emotional context, or in its ‘language-learning’ context - how useful or interesting it is in the mind of the learner.
Words need to trigger learning-awareness, which repeated encounters will recall, re-elaborate and deepen.

to be continued

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