5 06 2010
Scott Thornbury (10:22:07) :
Thanks for the comment Greg – and I envy you your insight into Bach’s fugues! (I actually do read the cover notes, and enjoy straining to identify the complexity!) It’s a great analogy – although perhaps it exaggerates the artistry of lesson design – and I agree that letting the students in on the design decisions is a useful means, both of ‘priming’ them, but also of demonstrating your own professionalism. Would it work, though, for a lesson that adhered to a more student-directed and emergent organisation?
5 06 2010
Greg Quinlivan (12:23:42) :
Cheers, Scott. For the students I work with in elementary school in Taiwan, the best I can hope for is to allow the timing and arrangement of the elements to vary according to the students’ skills and interests. If they get it, we can move on. If they don’t like an activity, we can substitute another.
Like having a textbook, I don’t see an outline as a straight jacket, more a path with the possibility of a few interesting diversions.
For older students, it might be possible for them to suggest items within a lesson, or at least for some of the segments, or to participate in the planning of a semester’s program.
My concern is to ensure that student interest is balanced against parental, school and curriculum expectations. For example, two of the school’s are that I prepare detailed lesson plans in advance and that I complete the text material.
So, I guess I’m not in a “student-directed or emergent organisation”. If you have thoughts on freeing this up further, or if I’ve misunderstood your meaning, please add to these comments.
Hi Scott, I realise this comment is coming quite late in your discussions, so my apologies. I’m afraid it’s not terribly profound.
You mentioned earlier about perceiving the beauty of a Bach fugue just from listening to it, and without knowing of its complexities from reading the cover notes, etc. You went on to wonder whether you were any worse off for not knowing.
For me, as a musician as well as an EFL teacher, it’s a question of depth. I can appreciate Bach fugues on so many more levels than a lay listener, having studied them in great detail and having sung them in choirs and performed them on a number of instruments. For example, I can follow the subjects and counter-subjects, the various entries and exits, the horizontal and vertical movements, the changes of key centres, the relentless forward momentum, and feel the rising and falling of tension and the final satisfying cadence that brings it to a restful conclusion. From this, it follows that I will also get more out of hearing great performance of them.
What does all this mean for teachers? Can students benefit by being able to detect the flow of a lesson? For many, like the music listeners, possibly not. But for others, they will at least subconsciously be aware of this flow progressing towards certain outcomes and feel comforted in that knowledge.
For me, one way of making this more conscious for students, and as an aid for myself, is to display a brief overview of the lesson flow and to tick off items as they are completed. It shows not only where we’ve been but where we’re going and how far is left.
Best wishes, Greg.
Posted June 5, 2010 by Greg Quinlivan at