The Vedocep (association of primary school English teacher trainers, a sub-section of the Levende Talen association) is a ‘job on the side’ for me. I’ve been an active member for many years and have in fact been the purser and website person for somewhere around seven years and the secretary for a little over a year. (I got sucked into it in my days of working as a primary teacher trainer). Let’s face it, this sort of volunteer work can sometimes be a time-consuming nuisance, but in the case of the Vedocep I find it a great source of distraction and energy. In my paid job I am a teacher trainer for secondary teachers of English so sometimes it’s nice to be able to focus on something totally different. Ok, it’s still English, still teacher trainers but the age range of the target group is different and the trainees are also a totally different breed! (sorry, the Dutch educational system is too complex to explain here in a ‘bloggy’ sort of way). Basically, the primary teachers are less ‘serious’ about English – a huge generalisation but I hope they’ll forgive me.
AIM = Aim language learning demonstration
Hugh Deller (@Hughdellar) recently blogged about the ‘fun’ aspect of English and how so many people are focussing on the fun and the activities rather than the aims. I have to say that I do see quite a lot of that around me. However, even though the primary schools here are actively encouraged to have ‘fun’ in the English lessons – motivate the kids while you can before secondary school grammar lessons take their grip 😉 – they do, nonetheless, have specific aims per lesson and have a clear learning line planned out from aged 4 through to 12. And the teachers are all taught to aim their lessons at CLT, go for fluency (though not at the cost of accuracy) and make sure the lessons follow the tight four phase model set out by Neuner or Oskam.
This four phase model is very much akin to the “good old” PPP whereby phase one is introduction (activating prior knowledge on the topic), phase two is presentation (presenting the new words/constructions/chunks etc), phase three is practice (practising the notions and functions in a variety of ways) and the final phase is transfer (the pupils demonstrates a productive knowledge of the notions and functions).
I = Introductie (introduction)
P = Presentatie (presentation)
O = Oefenfase (practice)
T = Transfer
mnemonic which works well in Dutch as it sounds like a certain mp3 player!
What can I say – it works! There has been enough research done to show that this build up of input, careful controlled practice, more open practice and then output actually works and closely resembles the way you learn your mother tongue. There is no need to make it boring – the practice phase can be full of life-size snakes and ladders, the input can be via the ears and/or eyes with flashcards, films etc and the output can be with role-plays or home-made chants. Fun no?!
Controlled practice – click on the video
song for 6 year-olds – click on ‘in my house’
So why do I perceive this abhorrence to the old PPP? (believe me, I’ve had some very strong reactions when I’ve asked colleagues in the UK about the PPP model). What on earth was wrong with it? There was also a discussion on Scott Thornbury’s site of the PPP – some of the comments are very clear on the matter. Many discuss the mis-use of the idea and the heavy emphasis on the first P. I think the difference with the four phase model is that over here the teachers are taught to ‘abuse’ the ‘o’ phase (i.e. practise practise practise). If someone can point me to some research which proves that PPP was/is not the right way of teaching and learning languages then I’d be very grateful – seriously!
phase 1 – activating prior knowledge, secondary education
Language learning over here in the Netherlands is serious business. Children must pass Dutch, maths and English to receive their school-leaving diploma. If they fail then they get put back a year or leave school with no diploma. I’m not saying that it’s all rosy and wonderful and that the teachers and schools do everything the way they ‘should’ and that the tests and exams are fully valid, reliable and genuinely testing all the skills, but the 4 phase model is a part of the foundation over here so should we be knocking it?