Home TEFL forum Teaching & Methodology A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

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  • duncan
    Participant
    5 May, 2012 at 7:42
    • Total posts: 11

    There is little doubt in my mind after years of teaching English in private language schools that a lot of teaching has become stuck in a cosy little world of itself. Teachers through habit or lack of imagination or poor training simply follow familiar rituals based on Orthodox beliefs. The Theme, the Task, the Topic — these are what we worship in the Church of ‘ communication’.

    Okay, this is very harsh and there are certainly plenty of well-prepared, clear-intentioned and talented teachers out there, but I really do see that very often priorities in classrooms are back to front.
    I have worked with the teaching program called SpeakYourMind and I found it very refreshing – of course it’s not for everyone or for every situation, but the only one on a course of two or three hours a week in their own country I would say that it sets out its aims very rationally and goes about doing a very difficult job with a remarkable degree of simplicity and naturalness. And certainly in my experience most students really enjoy it too.

    Its move away from topic-based teaching I think represents an extremely interesting alternative. This is what I read on their blog page:

    "In conventional topic-based lessons, relevant new language may only erratically emerge, or its appearance may be perceived as secondary to the ideas being communicated. New language may appear and then just as easily disappear, to be recovered only by the conscientious students (or those fortunate enough to have the time) who will later go back and seek it out. Theme-based lessons — and theme-based course books — do not provide adequate principled recycling of language, so what ultimately remains from each individual lesson may be insubstantial in terms of learning — the lesson may have left and enjoyable impression, but little in terms of tangible progress. This is not to say that we believe that learning is only measurable in terms of new words learned – ‘feeling at ease with a language’ is as much a part of what we aim to achieve as anything else, but motivation and a sense of self-efficacy are often intrinsically linked to a real sense of improvement and advance."
    http://speakyourmindenglish.blogspot.it/

    This makes so much sense to me, a and I think it would appeal to an awful lot of teachers too, who are tired of finding constantly original ways to get through lessons.

    I think students deserve more options when they choose an English course, and I think schools should be fair and describe more fully exactly the kind of teaching methodology that students will find in their classrooms. Unfortunately of course a lot of schools just want to sign the student up and don’t want to complicate matters by getting involved in these sorts of details.

    duncan
    Participant
    5 May, 2012 at 8:12
    • Total posts: 11

    Reply To: A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

    Woops! Sorry for odd mistakes. My dication software was a bit sleepy and I didn’t check…….

    lhhidalgo
    Participant
    7 May, 2012 at 14:58
    • Total posts: 1

    Reply To: A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

    Hi Duncan would you be willing to share your teacher’s books with me? I am from the U S and looking to grow as an esl teacher.I woild love to learn the " speakyourmind " methodology.Hope to hear from you.Linda Hidalgo

    duncan
    Participant
    22 May, 2012 at 5:41
    • Total posts: 11

    Reply To: A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

    Hello Hidalgo,
    You’ll find that the SpeakYourMind books are not openly available. As far as I understand, they are trying to grow it from inside and only schools with trained teachers and authorisation have access to the teaching material.
    Try writing for information on their web-site: I’m pretty sure they’ll provide some sample materials.

    sunny6
    Participant
    28 November, 2012 at 11:50
    • Total posts: 2

    Reply To: A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

    Hi guys, I thought I’d add my grain of salt to this!

    I myself have been working with the Speak Your Mind program for the past year and I can honestly say that it just MAKES SENSE!

    I had taught something slightly similar before called the Callan method but there really is no comparison. The Callan method is based on (often senseless ) repetition with the idea that one day these structures become engrained in your mind, whereas SyM focuses on autonomy, which is what everyone wants in a new language.

    It’s such a natural way to learn a language and you really see students absorbing the material through practice and regular contact with the new material.

    The program has really been thought out carefully and introduces a mixture of grammar and vocab at a point in their studies where students are able to ‘deal’ with it. Apart from being a speaking based program, it doesn’t lack reading and writing exercises but just shifts the focus to what a lot of people want to do…. Speak English!
    From a teacher’s perspective, I can say that there’s so much depth to the system and material. There is so much more to just standing in front of a class and asking questions and there is always so much going on in each class because you’re practicing nearly every element of learning a language at the same time. All the teachers I work with believe in this method and I think teacher approval is just as important as student approval.

    I hope this helps give another perspective!

    dan
    Moderator
    28 November, 2012 at 12:18
    • Total posts: 589

    Reply To: A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

    Ok, but noone’s actually said yet what exactly the method is, or how it works:

    You really see students absorbing the material through practice and regular contact with the new material.

    How do they absorb the material? How does the method ensure regular contact?

    It sets out its aims very rationally and goes about doing a very difficult job with a remarkable degree of simplicity and naturalness.

    Again, how?

    It’s absolutely fine to give an opinion that one method is better than another method, but readers aren’t in a position to judge unless it’s explained how this alternative method works compared to the first one!

    joelthefrog
    Participant
    14 December, 2012 at 13:12
    • Total posts: 1

    Reply To: A fresh change to topic-based teaching: SpeakYourMind

    Hello,

    I saw this thread so I though I’d join in. This is from a post on the Blog – there is a link to it on the top post.
    This doesn’t answer everything, Dan, but I found it quite interesting in the way it lays out an approach.

    Of course ‘better’ is bound to be a subjective, individual view but I think the idea here is that if lots of individuals find it ‘better’ than what they have done in different types of classrooms, a course becomes ‘better’ numerically, rather than better ‘intrinsically’ – if you see what I mean.
    In reality, Sunny doesn’t say that SpeakYourMind is ‘better’ than anything (apart from the ‘calan method’).

    Anyway this is part of what the post says in part answer to how ‘regular contact’ is ensured:-

    MOD edit – quoted text replaced by link to blog post:
    http://speakyourmindenglish.blogspot.fr … chive.html

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