Sunday 16 March 2014

Fethiye WAYK begins in English

Our Turkish sessions have taken somewhat of a break through a mixture of cancellations and illness. But the English side of things, run mostly by my wife Gözde, is going from strength to strength, already halfway through the USC with two separate groups. Hopefully we'll have some video for you soon.

We're talking about how to move further beyond the USC. With tourism/service industries the big thing around here, most likely our vocabulary and set-ups will expand in that general direction as we build up the grammar.

Below is a translation of Gözde's first post on the blog, reflecting her impressions:
After researching WAYK for some time with my husband, I started to believe that WAYK could be effective in light of points that overlap with principles of language acquisition that we are taught as English teachers. I talked about the method with some adult students who wanted to learn English and so we decided to give it a try. Although there is a business side to it, this is a secondary consideration in our experimental group project.

Our first English lessons

One of my first points of hesitation with WAYK, which we had actually seen in the case of foreigners learning Turkish, was the possibility of adult groups not being enthusiastic about using sign language. But right from the first lesson there was no hesitation, even by shy students. Our first lesson followed the Universal Speed Curriculum. At the end of the lesson they were conversing without the signs, even one of them who we could say was encountering English for the first time.

The strongest aspect of WAYK that I have observed is that it keeps students' motivation at a high level. At this point I can identify two reasons: the game aspect for children, and for adults the fact that they can speak English from the first lesson.

As for developing the curriculum, at the moment I have only used sign language with the beginners' classes but I have used WAYK principles with a 10th grade student and found it to be useful in getting her to use grammar she learnt at school. My husband has also used WAYK with an 11th grade student to great effect.

WAYK's edge

Although the sign language makes WAYK different to classic techniques, this is not the basis of WAYK. Essentially, we find in WAYK the ideal language teaching methods taught in education faculties, in particular teaching without using the student's mother tongue, creating set-ups, and using lots of repetition.

The biggest difference between WAYK and classic methods is that there are no explanations of grammar, just as when children learn language. Logically there is no need to explain something again when the brain has already learnt it, only prospective English teachers really need to know this. Those who only wish to speak English do not need to know what a structure or rule is called.

Many teachers will have observed the gap between what we are taught in university and what we are able to apply in a class environment. From this perspective we can say that WAYK is a package programme that enables us to apply ideal teaching methods.

These are my impressions so far, I will write more after upcoming lessons...

Saturday 15 March 2014

WAYK'la yola çıkıyoruz

WAYK'ı eşimle birlikte bir süre inceledikten sonra, bir İngilizce öğretmeni olarak dil edinimi derslerinde öğrendiğimiz ilkelerle örtüşen noktalarından yola çıkarak WAYK'ın etkili olabileceğine inanmaya başladım. İngilizce öğrenmeye istekli bazı yetişkin öğrencilerle yöntem üzerinde konuştum ve denemeye karar verdik. Her ne kadar işin ticari bir boyutu olsa da bu kısmı ikinci plana atarak deneysel grup çalışmaları yapmaya başladık.

İlk İngilizce derslerimiz

WAYK'la ilgili ilk tereddütlerimden biri -ki bunu Türkçe öğrenen yabancı öğrencilerle yaşamıştık- yetişkin grupların işaret dili kullanmak konusunda isteksiz olabilecekleriydi. Ancak ilk derste bile öğrenciler içinde çekingen yapıda olanlar bile bu konuda tereddüt etmedi. Universal Speed Curriculum'ı takip ederek birinci dersi yaptık. Dersin sonunda öğrenciler -ki biri İngilizceyle ilk kez tanışıyordu diyebiliriz- işaretleri yapmadan sohbet edebiliyorlardı.

WAYK'ın gözlemlediğim en güçlü özelliği öğrencilerin motivasyonunu daima yüksek tutuyor olması. Şu aşamada bunun iki sebebini belirtebilirim: çocuklar için bunun bir oyun olması; yetişkinler için de daha ilk dersten İngilizce konuşuyor olmaları.

Müfredat gelişimi açısından şu ana dek sadece başlangıç sınıflarıyla işaret dilini denedim ama 10. sınıf düzeyinde bir öğrenciyle konuşma dersi yaparken WAYK ilkelerini kullandım ve okulda gördüğü grameri pratik olarak da kullanmasında yararı olduğunu gördüm. Eşim de 11. sınıf düzeyinde bir öğrenciyle WAYK'ı kullanarak gayet başarılı oldu.

WAYK'ın esprisi

WAYK'ın klasik yöntemlerden farklı bir yönü işaret dili olsa da WAYK bundan ibaret değil. Esasında eğitim fakültelerindeki ideal dil öğretim yöntemlerini WAYK'ta buluyoruz. Özellikle de öğrencinin ana dilini kullanmadan, "set-up" yaratarak, bol bol tekrar yaptırarak öğretmek bunlardan bazıları.

WAYK'ın klasik yöntemden en büyük farkı, çocukken dil öğrenirken olduğu gibi gramer açıklamasına girilmemesi. Beynin zaten öğrendiği bir şeyi tekrar açıklamaya da gerek yok mantıken, sadece İngilizce öğretmeni adaylarının bunu bilmesi yeterli, İngilizce konuşacak olanların kullandıkları yapının adını ya da kuralı bilmesine gerek yok.

Pek çok öğretmen gözlemlemiştir, okulda öğrendiklerimizle sınıf ortamında uygulayabildiklerimiz farklıdır. Bu açıdan, WAYK ideal öğretim yöntemlerini uygulamamıza yardım eden bir paket program diyebiliriz.

Şu an izlenimlerim böyle, önümüzdeki derslerden izlenimlerimi de aktarmaya devam edeceğim...

Saturday 8 March 2014

Suffixes and sign language

I recently had two of my students decide against continuing with WAYK. After talking it over with Ben Barrett, who is always a great help, I have concluded that my main problems were, firstly, trying to pitch a beginner's class to halfway intermediates (an issue I will come back to later), and secondly signing all the suffixes.

I had always seen the signing aspect of WAYK as useful. It serves as a both a memory aid for new vocabulary and for making the whole experience more "tactile" and therefore more memorable. It also serves as a way of marking the various elements of a sentence to make sure that phrases enter the memory as "sums of parts" and not simply unparsed wholes. Basically this is what is meant when they talk about a bridge language.

But in hindsight it seems the idea of mapping all elements of the spoken language to sign language is not only impossible but undesirable, as it creates unnecessary complexity. One of my students in particular complained about the "hand signals" from the beginning saying she "wasn't very dexterous", and I could see that most of her brain's bandwidth was indeed being spent on getting her hands around the signs.

I didn't help things by signing all the suffixes religiously. I think it was particularly difficult where I was signing suffixes that were part of a syllable. To give you an example, just watch this little snippet from our last session.

I'm saying Bu senin şişen mi? which translates as "Is this your bottle?" The sign language is going like this:

Bu senin şişe -n mi?

I think this much is clear: Never, ever sign half a syllable.

With this possessive suffix "-n", it does actually form an independent syllable with words that end in a consonant, like kalem which becomes kalemin and telefon which becomes telefonun. So the question is: Was my mistake not starting out with words that ended in consonants, and would therefore give me a whole-syllable suffix to sign, or is signing suffixes at all a mistake?

After talking to Ben, I'm currently leaning towards the latter. He has taught Japanese, which is also a highly agglutinative language, without signing the suffixes and with no problems, relying on the Obvious Set-up to do the magic for him. However he also suggested radically revising the target conversation entirely to use as few suffixes as possible starting out, completely eliminating "mine, yours" for the first five or six sessions and instead opting for sentences without suffixes, based more around "this, that".

Ultimately we come back to the fundamental principle of a Limited Obvious Set-up. We use sign language for all the reasons listed above and also because it makes the Set-up more Obvious. Where sign language will complicate things (as in complicated suffixes), first check to see if your Set-up is Obvious enough to do without it. If things are still too complicated, it's time to Limit some more, and go back to the drawing board if you have to.

All sign language is eventually phased out anyway. If I can get away without sign language for suffixes, I will. Where I do feel the need to use sign language for suffixes, I'm going to be careful to make sure I engineer my conversation so those suffixes are in whole-syllable forms, but abandon them just as soon as my students are used to them.

It's not all bad news, my original student is still keeping at it and I will hopefully have a second starting afresh. Meanwhile, things have been going well on the English front, with our first formal beginners session this evening.

To paraphrase Will Smith, it is no longer our job to get them to like the method. It is our job not to mess it up!

Edit: See Suffixes and sign language revisited

Saturday 1 March 2014

WAYK applied to intermediate English tutoring

Yesterday evening my wife used a lesson plan we developed together using WAYK principles to help an intermediate high-school English student internalise some fine points of grammar. Although the student already “knew” the grammar points under discussion, the conversation techniques really helped them to “click” in her mind.

The specific topic the student needed to work on were conditionals, and so the lesson plan centred around Conditional Type 0 (“If you heat ice it melts”), Conditional Type 1 (“If I have enough money I will go to the cinema”), and Conditional Type 2 (“If I had lots of money I would…”).

We devised short conversations or stories that effectively establish an Obvious Set-up, enhanced by expressive gesturing and sign-language where needed. Then in comes the “Bite-sized Piece” in the form of the actual target sentence or question-and-answer.

So for example, to get up to “If you heat ice it melts”, Gözde’s Set-up sentences were, “What’s this? -This is ice. -What happens when you heat ice/when you hold ice for a long time? -It melts. -So, if you heat ice it melts.” The Set-up sentences, of course, must be Obvious and ideally should be formulated with words and structures the student already knows. Then they’re ready for the punch-line, the final one or two sentences containing the Bite-sized Piece of new vocabulary or, in this case, grammar.

After three different pre-prepared Set-ups for each conditional type, Gözde then had a strategy for coming up with three more Set-ups that this time would be personalised (cf. These Are a Few of My Favorite Things). For Type 0, she used “What do you do on weekends? Do you see your friends/do your homework/go swimming/etc.? -… -Do you see your friends/do your homework/go swimming/etc. if you have exams? -I don’t see my friends if I have exams.” Of course, any typical situation can be substituted for exams.

The trick for the personalised Set-ups is to try and predict the kinds of answers the student will give and frame your questions accordingly. For example, in Type 1 a target phrase is, “If X happens I will Y”. We need our student to tell us about a definite plan, and then something that plan is conditional on. So we start with “What will you do tomorrow?”, because everybody does something every day. An alternative could be “Where will you go tomorrow?” Then, “What will you need?” If the answer is “Nothing” then you come back with “What else will you do tomorrow?” until you get an answer for which something will be needed. Then you present the punch-line, “If I have money I will go to the cinema tomorrow”, for example. If prepared with this in mind, the set-piece Set-ups you start with before the personalised Set-ups stage can provide useful cues.

Gözde made only minimal use of sign language for new words and for Obviousness when needed. She also used a number of photographs as props. One of these was a picture of a small planet Earth surrounded by famous landmarks. So one conversation went like this: “What is this? -Big Ben. -Where is it? -It is in London. -Are you in London? -No I am not in London. -What could you do if you were in London? -If I were in London I could see Big Ben.” This went on for each landmark in the picture.

This just goes to show how versatile the Where Are Your Keys? suite of techniques is, and that its scope really is unlimited.