Ttree Programs in One Classoom

автор: Violeta Tsoneva
заглавие: Ttree Programs in One Classoom
година: 2002
ISBN: 954-9536-66-1
Издател: Парадигма
цена: 5 лв.

Транспортните разходи са за сметка на клиента Several weeks ago, searching through a drawer, I came upon an old notebook of my son's, who is now in his first year at university. For me, as for many other parents, such notebooks have a special sentimental value and usually fill me with a nostalgia about a past that will never come back. This time, however, I felt differently. It was the professional, rather than the mother in me, whose curiosity was whetted, for those several pages contained the notes my son had taken during his first few days in Grade 10 at the German Language High School. I looked at them as a record displaying a variety of teaching styles and techniques and giving the observer a unique opportunity to share the students' experiences of them. Inevitably, this led to comparisons in which one particular record of a teaching style seemed to stand out that of Violeta Tsoneva, the English teacher.
Unlike the teachers of other subjects that had been taught to the students before Grade 10, Dr. Tsoneva had not chosen to start immediately with revision exercises, nor had she merely dictated a list of books to be obtained for use throughout the school year. No—below the language topics that would be covered, I found clearly enunciated the skills that the students would develop and the projects in which each of them would have the opportunity to participate. Against the other introductory lessons, this "section" in my son's notebook radiated a clear sense of purpose and the means whereby it would be achieved. And it also revealed the teacher's confidence in her students' ability to reach the goals set, irrespective of the hard work they would have to put in. Indeed, these pages consolidated the excellent opinion I had already formed of Dr. Tsoneva's English classes. But also, to my great satisfaction, they also showed that the enthusiasm with which my son and most of his friends studied English at school was not merely due to the impulsiveness of adolescence. So, when by a strange coincidence a couple of weeks later she called and asked me to write this introduction to her book, I wholeheartedly agreed. As a parent and teacher of English myself, I believe that Violeta Tsoneva's work deserves to come out into the global space of Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TFEL), where it can be seen not merely as one more sample of a successful teaching technique but where her ideas and methods win be
disseminated in an educational environment badly in need of innovative and productive approaches.        :
Throughout the four years that my son's "generation" as Violeta Tsoneva calls it, studied English with her, I was particularly well-placed to observe the teaching process from both sides—the teacher's and the students'. In my son's notebooks I could see the carefully planned grammar and vocabulary curriculum, as well as the exercises and the regular tests. At the same time, my son and his classmates would often tell me about their "unusual" lessons in English where, at first to their shock and after that to their amusement and satisfaction, talking was not merely tolerated but positively encouraged. And most importantly, I had a peculiar, but by far, not unique position of an "intermediary" in Dr. Tsoneva's е-correspondence with my son, who did not at that time have an e-mail address of his own. Being an intermediary enabled me to follow her students' "work-in-progress" and then see it published on the Web sites launched by each individual project. The effect of reading those texts was very different from that of just comparing grades, as parents usually do—what I could now see was not just an excellent grade against a very good one, for example, but a meaningful text—an essay, a mini-saga or a recipe—that had a real existence and came from a personality with its own individual interests and opinions. And, of course, as part of a large compendium of similar texts, each contribution would also reveal its writer's proficiency in English and his or her progress with that language, ultimately what every parent would like to know.
This book tells in detail each step in the teaching process from setting the task (the Call for Participation) to achieving the goal in TEFL in using the Internet. If, however, we step outside the area of methodology, there are certain keywords that, in my opinion, aptly summarize what Violeta Tsoneva's students have gained from working on and for all those projects she involved them in. These key words are relevance, motivation, ambition and responsibility. In the first place, using on-line projects is relevant to these 18 and 19-year-old girls and boys because they are, at least in the Bulgarian context, the first generation who had access to computers and the Internet all throughout their educationally and culturally formative years. They grew up through the electronic revolution of the 1980s and 1990s; they saw the demise of the vinyl
record and of the typewriter, and today, they are themselves the ones who are putting away audio and video tapes and replacing them with CDs and DVDs. Most importantly, for a rising majority of them, the divisive hint in the term "computer-literate" makes no sense, as they cannot even imagine literacy without computer skills, including the use of the Internet. That is why the integration of learning a foreign language, English especially, in the classroom with putting that language to immediate use for gathering information and for communication within a global context is a natural aspect of their experience, both within and outside the educational field. To shut one's eyes to this fact is, for any teacher, to set artificial barriers between the school and real life and thus to doom education itself to failure. The use of on-line projects in TEFL allows students to remove any such barriers and to integrate their technological skills with their linguistic ones and thus to take part in the educational process not as passive objects but as active subjects participating with their own creative energy.
Using е-projects is also motivating for students in that it sets them clear goals and learning standards. As Violeta Tsoneva points out in her first chapter, these projects are especially useful for teaching writing skills, allowing students various opportunities to produce texts belonging to all the basic types. But whereas the usual classroom "composition" or "essay" often remains unread by anyone apart from its author and can, therefore, be done only for appearance's sake, the one written for an on-line project partakes of the global scope of that project and must by necessity be taken seriously, both in terms of contents and linguistic expression. Apart from this, editing or being edited on-screen and on-line involves the use of up-to-date word-processing technology. It is thus yet another means of setting challenging goals and at the same time enriching the learning process with the much needed fun, since young people definitely prefer the mouse to the red pencil. And, last but not least, the need to collect material through interviews, the Internet or from books, to process that information for a particular purpose and then to find the most adequate linguistic expression makes learners aware of the foreign language as a means of natural communication rather than as a school subject with a goal frequently limited to acquiring a good grade.
Opening up the work done in the classroom to a global audience is, furthermore, an excellent way of stimulating the students' ambition to reach ever higher standards in the use of English. Many of the participants in the on-line projects are native speakers or come from countries where English is a second, rather than a foreign language, and where proficiency in English can be very high. For students like ours, to whom learning English comes later and usually through the medium of the school, communicating with or featuring on a par with users of English as a native or a second language can activate a desire to achieve greater fluency. But as Violeta Tsoneva's methods of structuring her work in class shows, even the preliminary stages of participation in on-line projects can be successfully used to stimulate students towards better performance. Her use of the class as a kind of "selection committee" nominating the best compositions sets a competitive angle to the learning process and allows opportunities for awarding effort and excellence. But unlike the usual grade-giving routine, having high achievers contribute to е-projects enables them to open up their work to an audience that will judge them according to international standards. Inevitably, this challenges them to go on working and improving their performance.