Whether you consider yourself to be in EFL, ESL or ELT our industry is littered with TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) Before I introduce you to another, have a look at this list and see if you know what they all mean. (NB not all are *TLAs, some are TLAs and some FLAs- see below for definitions. )
This list is only a fraction, and probably represents how language is mutating. (tbh, I could have listed hundreds more)
Having identified their meaning, are there some that mean more to you than others? Ones that you can really relate to? You don’t have to choose one that is here, or even a TLA, but think of an idea or approach that means something to you. Perhaps Dogme was an eye-opener for you, or The Lexical Approach?
When did you first come across these? How have they influenced your teaching? Did you have any ‘Aha!’ moments with them? (‘Aha’ is not a TLA, but a term Oprah Winfrey uses when you (or your students) have a ‘light bulb’ moment, i.e.where the penny drops and everything seems to make sense.) Take some time to think about how you responded to these new ideas. Did you use them and adapted them to suit your own teaching situation? How did you do this?
At what point did you feel you had ownership of the concept and a sense that it belonged to you? Did you ever feel that you wanted to share it with your colleagues?
At this point I would like to introduce you to MMM. The term was originally coined by University of Nottingham ITE team and I discovered it hidden away in The Primary English Teacher’s Guide; Brewster, Ellis and Girard (Penguin 2002: 47,48). It describes a more learner-centred, child-friendly view of PPP, but in fact is a more humanistic idea of how learners acquire language. For me, though, it has become more of a life philosophy.
MMM; Meeting new language, Manipulating it and Making the language your own.
(Or, if you prefer it as a mantra to chant, like I do: meet it, manipulate it, make it your own.)
Meeting new language
The way new language is presented depends on the resources available, but it often involves a visual image along with the teacher providing a spoken example.
At this point the teacher is trying to provide comprehensible input in an interesting way so that learners use their hearing, sight and knowledge of the world to put the language into context.
This means the teacher is responsible for introducing the meaning, form and pronunciation of the new language correctly and also for checking the students’ comprehension. It is at this stage where learners could be corrected gently and given the opportunity to practise saying the new language as a group, getting used to hearing what their voice sounds like saying the new language.
Manipulating the new language
The teacher should try and support the learners in manipulating the new language in a variety of activities. First in a controlled way and then moving into more guided manipulation where the learners select the language they want to use from the range of new language they have just encountered. In this way the learners become more and more responsible for remembering the language, but always with some support, such as actions, CDS, charts, chants, pictures, etc. As the learners manipulate the language they are more likely to be divided into teams, groups or pairs.
Making the language your own
In this stage the students are likely to be in groups or pairs for activities with a clear purpose so they need to communicate. This should be much freer, less controlled practice where the emphasis is on getting their meaning across and understanding others’ meaning. Too much correction at this stage could be de-motivating and inappropriate as the focus is on ‘ownership’ of the language. Corrections could be highlighted at the recycling stage in the following lesson, or at the end of the session. It is unrealistic to expect children to use new language perfectly at this stage. This stage is important for developing students’ interactional skills, listening and speaking, as well as literacy skills, reading and writing. Finally, children should be encouraged to review what they have done and learned, and be given plenty of opportunities to recycle language through a variety of activities.
I was introduced to the MMM concept when I was studying for my MA in TEYL at York University. I soon started using it and adapting it as I was writing teacher training courses for teaching YLs. It forms a central backbone in the planning session I wrote for the IHCYLT. More recently I introduced the concept to a group of trainees on CELTA as it is equally applicable for teaching adults. I certainly feel I have ownership of the concept. Recently I was invited to present a training session in Shanghai, China as part of an ICELT course at General Plan. I introduced MMM as an idea for how to approach lesson planning, and before the end of the session the course director, Simon Cox, had managed to manipulate the concept and incorporated it into the assignment he was setting on that day. Basically, I had demonstrated some pairwork card games where the participants had to make their own cards and then use them to play a series of activities which followed the basic MMM principles (see below). The participants were then encouraged to take these ideas (which they had just met) manipulate and adapt them and make them their own for their individual teaching situation. Loop input doesn’t get better than that!
How do you feel about MMM? Did you help your students meet, manipulate and make language their own this week? Have you been MMMing with tasks and activities? (yes, we can use it as a verb) And yes, I think there definitely is room for one more TLA in ELT!
|CALL||Computer Assisted language Learning|
|CBLT||Content Based Language Teaching|
|CEF||Common European Framework|
|CLIL||Content and Language Integrated Learning|
|CLL||Community Language Learning|
|CLT||Communicative Language Teaching|
|ESA||Engage, Study, Activate|
|PPP||Presentation, Practice, Production|
|SIG||Special Interest Group|
|SLA||Second Language Acquisition|
|TEYL||Teaching English to Young Learners|
|TPR||Total Physical Response|
|TTT||Test-Teach-Test (or Teacher Talking Time)|