Article by Fathi Bouguerra, teacher trainer in Sidi Bouzid.
Recently-published textbooks in Tunisia have taken into consideration the impressive development in audio, video and computer-mediated communication (CMC). There is a focus on the use of some technological resources ( web-based material/CD-ROMs), the focus is also on how students can use the internet to enhance their speaking, listening and pronunciation skills in a foreign language. Students can learn communicative skills in a less threatening environment using technologies such as chat rooms, discussion forums, email and activities such as webquests - a constructivist approach to learning.
It is within this framework that the Ministry of Education – with the coordination of the British Council organized on January the 30th, 2010 a regional seminar in Sidi Bouzid. 45 teachers were invited to attend a session presented by Mr. Christian Charter who started his presentation with a familiarization activity. The stress was laid upon the fact that the wealth of information on the web will, by no means, exclude the role of the teacher. This latter is supposed to select the activities that best suit the level of his /her learners and the context where s/he is teaching.
The trainer also handed some worksheets about lesson planning, introduced new websites such as premierskills.britishcouncil.org and reminded teachers of other sites they are already familiar with, namely www.go4english.com. After that teachers sat in groups of six to browse the new websites and answer some questions that relate to the new material presented. What I personally appreciate is the discussion held on teacher development, showing to teachers-both novice and veteran - that growing as professional is lifelong; besides that no one is beyond training.
Because teachers in different parts of the world voice the same problem about the lack of authentic listening material, the trainer seized this opportunity to tell the audience about an easy way to download at least 20 passages from a link called Podcasts. Then, he made them listen to a fairy tale entitled Cinderella. While listening, teachers were asked to tick 10 'true or false' statements. The focus was also on the idea that such activities will not need much effort as well as time on the part of teachers who felt relaxed and eager to use the material with their learners.
As we need material for the third hour the trainer pointed out to the importance of using games and songs to involve learners (involve me and I will learn), make the classroom activities motivating for both teachers and students and thus avoid boredom. Music creates a relaxing learning environment and can also be used to help students concentrate while reading a text or to mark a brief pause in the lesson before moving to another activity. « Songs can increase motivation to learn the language » Throuton James. Learning from the proverb « All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy », games create good teaching and learning conditions. They, by their nature, generate interest, motivation and entertainment. Unlike the common tradition of teaching that all learning should be serious and solemn, communicative and creative methods preach ‘…having fun and hilarity ... ’. It is possible to learn language and enjoy oneself at a time. One of the best things of doing this is through games.
The seminar was another occasion for teachers to bear in mind that the days of amateur teaching are over. This means that teachers are compelled to update their methods and vary their techniques. One way of doing this is cooperation – inter and intra schools. The lack of material will no longer be an excuse as we have plenty of it and here lies the importance of the material delivered to us by the British Council .I mean here all the websites. So, the burden now is on us-teachers to prove that the teacher is an artisan, active creator of techniques and teaching material. «A teacher affects eternity; he can never know where his influence stops. » (Henry Brooks Adams). Last but not least, the seminar came at a crucial moment of the reform in the Tunisian schools and one of its aspects is the use of call labs.
I personally think that the seminar has removed all the clouds hanging over the issue of material that teachers will need first in the third hour and second in the call lab.
**Photos by Fathi Belhedi, CREFOC Sidi Bouzid