Ceri Jones is a freelance ELT teacher, teacher trainer, and materials writer based in Cádiz in Spain. Based on my recent post What's your approach called? Mine's called 'EmLT', Ceri kindly offered to write a guest post here on English Raven explaining her own approach, called 'SLIL': Student and Language Integrated Learning.
To my absolute joy, Ceri has written an account of her approach that makes mine look like a slogan on a cereal packet! So get yourself a cup of something, sit back and enjoy the read about SLIL!
What's your approach called? Mine's called 'SLIL': Student and Language Integrated Learning
Guest post by Ceri Jones
It started off as a glib message on twitter, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, and this was my first attempt to unpack what I thought I might have meant:
“SLIL -an interface between the student's system of self and language as a means of expressing and extending it”
But that was altogether too dense, a kind of jargon-laden slogan that might actually turn out to be saying nothing at all. So, encouraged by members of my twitter PLN (special thanks to Jason and Cecilia Coelho), I’m giving it more thought. And the thinking starts with trying to identify where my interest and passion for language teaching lies.
It’s double edged, it’s both the learners and the language that fascinate me, and the way the two interact. On the S side (the people, the learners) it’s also the way different people learn – or sometimes feel that they’re failing to learn – and the role that language and language learning plays in their lives. On the L side of the equation, it’s the way language works and shifts and changes. The way we try to pin it down but can never quite get there. The way we play with it. The way we sometimes master it, and how it sometimes slips right through our fingers.
So having identified the source of my own personal interest, the next thing to explore is how this impacts on my approach to teaching. It’s quite difficult to pin it down in a few words, but I’m going to have a go.
When I teach I try to open a dialogue between the students and the language they’re learning, I try to help them learn to make the language their own, to make it part of their identity, so that what we’re working with is their language, not some external, alien “thing” (for want of a better word!). At the moment I’m particularly interested in working out ways to help students create positive L2 images, and to use these images to motivate their learning and push their language limits. I think this is where the “I” comes in – language and learner integrating in the same self system.
I also try and train students to notice how the language works, to spot and question patterns and forms, to draw parallels and links with their L1, both linguistic and socio-cultural. This means that at some point in all lessons, we’ll stop and look at the minutiae of an expression, or word or form, pause and explore it, before going back to the big picture of the lesson as a whole. I guess this is the first “L”. And in training the students to notice, to be aware of, and hopefully interested in, the relationships between form and meaning, I hope this means that the second “L” is not something that only goes on in class, but extends well beyond both the classroom and the course.
Which brings me to the “S”. Whatever type of class it might be, 1 to 1, large groups, YLs, exams, BE, the students and their worlds, perceptions and needs are the starting point. And lessons, tasks and materials are structured (or manipulated in the case of e.g. coursebooks) so that the students have a chance to express and communicate things that are personally important and relevant to them. Nothing new there at all, of course, but I try also to be aware of potential “death by personalization” i.e. of too many activities based on the details of students’ day-to-day lives (what you had for breakfast, what you did at the weekend) that don’t necessarily engage on any more than a very superficial level. I think personal engagement is the most important element for me in any kind of teaching – and maximizing this is always the biggest challenge for me as a teacher.
Thank you, Jason, for giving me a space to think those thoughts through. I hope they make sense!
Thank you so much for this excellent account of SLIL, Ceri! Certainly makes sense to me, and just as importantly, it is something I think we can all take something from...
Would you like to have a go at naming and describing your own approach to language teaching?
In addition to this great contribution from Ceri, Marisa Pavan in Argentina has described her 'FlexiMoti' approach over on her own blog - also very much worth a gander!
So why not dedicate some space on your blog to your very own "what's your approach called?" post (or posts!)?
Or, alternatively, you're welcome to have it featured here on English Raven as a guest post. This feathered friend would love to have you pop by the nest! Contact me directly via Twitter at @englishraven!