Teaching content not only the form

Teaching English without Teaching English

Teaching English through the content not only the form

When teaching English, have you ever had the experience that your students can answer written tests and quizzes perfectly well without any problem and, strangely enough, at the same time, these same students fail to maintain a comprehensive conversation? This situation is not uncommon.

How can we address such a problem?

What about moving away from the focus on form a little bit towards a balanced approach to teaching language that takes into consideration meaning too?

In other words what about focusing on both form and meaning.

Striking a balance between accuracy and fluency-based activities means that we should engage learners in meaningful tasks where they have to interact to negotiate meaning, think critically, synthesize, analyze and evaluate – a mixture of critical pedagogy and the Dogme approach

The following talk deals with these ideas.

The talk is given by Roberto Guzman at a TEDx event. Roberto presents in this talk his three-phase system which he uses to teach English without teaching English. Roberto’s aims are twofold:

  • To improve the learning experience for students.
  • To improve the teaching practice for teachers.

Roberto Guzman talks about a ‘system’ that consists of three steps:

  1. Developing critical thinking by asking questions;
  2. Identifying and neutralizing logical fallacies to distinguish what is true from what is fake;
  3. Identifying levels of cognition which start from remembering and end up with analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating.

All this is done through a focus on content/meaning, where the form is just a by-product.

So if teachers want their students to be able to use and enjoy the language, not just pass an exam, they had better adopt a conversational type of teaching where the students are involved in the learning process. ‘They should be able to know how to cook, not just how to read a recipe book’.

Who is Robert Guzman?

Robert Guzman is a full professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla Campus. Guzman teaches undergraduate English courses in which he stresses the development of critical thinking skills and hands-on language development skills. He’s also a freelance writer and political commentator on the WPRA 990 AM radio show Comunicando with host Toti Figueroa.

Guzman has already published several books including:

  • The Devil’s Advocate Reader.
  • Tropical Tales of Terror.

The TED talk video

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