Sorry, I haven’t posted a blog for a while – I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by.  In this post I want to return to the theme of supposed sex differences between how and what children learn and look at the other side of the coin.  If girls are supposedly better than boys at language (a belief I disputed in my last post) are boys really better than girls at math and science? It’s interesting to note that as young children there don’t appear to...

[caption id="attachment_3389" align="alignnone" width="640"] "Kids playing with marbles” by Tup Wanders is licensed under CC BY 2.0[/caption] This month, I want to pick up the theme of the brain and language learning and consider the controversial topic of sex differences.  There has existed a belief for some time that girls are innately better at language than boys.  Gurian (2005 in Eliot, 2009) argues that girls are up to eighteen months ahead of boys by the age of six and this has been put forward as an argument for teaching...

Hello! It’s good to be back after a couple of months (ok, maybe more ;-) ) away from the blog.  For the rest of this year, I’d like to consider the role of neuroscience in language learning and teaching. What is neuroscience and how is it interesting to language teachers? Are you interested in how the brain works?  If you said yes, you concur with the around 80% of teachers from around the world that a major study found are interested in brain science (Pickering and Howard-Jones, 2007).  It’s a fascinating...

Is it December already?! I’ve just been reading a new book about beliefs in language teaching and learning and, as with any good book, it’s got me thinking.  As teachers, how often do we stop to think about what our beliefs are about how we teach and how students learn?  In my case, “not very often” is the answer and yet, our beliefs are right there in the activities we choose in class, how we talk to learners and how we respond to learners and their output and contributions. ...

In this post, I’d like to report on some fascinating research I had the pleasure of seeing presented at the recent MEXTESOL conference in Puebla, Mexico.  What particularly interested me was the connection to the topic of meaningful learning that I have been talking about on this blog as well as the direct application of the research to the teaching of vocabulary both for classroom teachers, teacher trainers and materials writers.  I don’t know about you, but I love research that we can use in the classroom. The first...

Hello! In my previous post we looked at the concept of ‘meaningful learning’, the idea of taking what learners already know and using it to help them to learn more.  In this post, I want to start looking at how to do this in the classroom. Using learners’ knowledge of L1. This clearly cuts into a controversial issue in ELT for the past thirty years or so – the use of the mother tongue.  What I’d like to argue is that we can’t/shouldn’t ignore all this knowledge that learners have and...

Hello again! Many years ago I took a class in educational psychology and came across this quote from the cognitive psychologist, David Ausubel: "If I had to reduce all of cognitive psychology to one principle it would be this:  the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.  Ascertain this and teach him accordingly."  (1978:  flyleaf). I was very struck by this and was therefore even more interested to find out what cognitive psychology had to say about ‘meaningful learning’, something that we talk about vaguely in...

Hello again! It's good to be back after a short absence - a lot has happened since I last posted and I'll be writing about one those things here. I had the great fortune in June to be at a fabulous conference in lovely Cancun, Mexico. While I was there I was talking about the use of previous knowledge and meaningful learning, and focused in on all the previous knowledge that learners have in English of songs and particularly certain lines of songs. Like a dream come true, the night...

Hello again! In the past few months I’ve talked about ways to make what we do in the classroom more relevant to our learners’ lives, particularly with regard to the inclusion of digital media.  This month I’d like to give an idea for how to change a typical English language writing task into a task that relates more to real life writing. Let’s take this task as our starting point. Write a paragraph describing your home.  If we look at a model that we could ask students to read to begin, it...

This month I’ll be continuing the theme of technology in education and thinking about the impact of technology on young people – our learners and future learners! In 2010 there was an article in the New York Times Magazine called Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction.  The title of the article gives you a clue as to the content – in it the writer contends (with the help of a teacher called Ms Blondel and a young student called Vishal) that “… computers and cellphones, and the constant stream...