My most recent post on this blog presented some ideas about how to explore topical pathways that come up in casual classroom conversation, with a mind to pursuing an unplugged or emergent approach to our lessons.
In this follow up, I am going to present some thoughts and suggestions that might appeal to the sort of teacher who is interested in exploring an unplugged teaching approach, but nonetheless worries that this might result in lessons that are too unstructured and perhaps lack logical progression. For these teachers, one of the appealing things about coursebooks is there is a clear method and step-by-step progression to the units. The same teachers most probably found my recent Windows ("unplugged coursebook concept") horrifically vague and open! Like trying to make language lessons happen from a hermit's address book or something...
In any case, I am basically going to show you how I would "unplug" a coursebook unit that I have written and had published. The idea is that we take important aspects of the unit "method" but unplug the content, so that learners and teacher can bring their own interests and experiments to the unit.
Just to be clear, some time ago on this blog I presented some ideas about how an emergent or unplugged approach could be inserted into the Boost! Speaking unit format to create a sort of hybrid approach (meaning that alongside the pre-set coursebook content we could have a series of blank areas for learners to adapt the content to their own interests or even pursue a completely separate unit agenda -- of their own choosing -- alongside it).
What I am about to present goes much further than that. It retains quite a lot of the aspects of the Boost! Speaking unit format (creating a sort of method), but removes the content altogether. It is, in almost all relevent aspects, essentially Boost! Speaking Unplugged.
Here's a bit of a "before and after" illustration of what happens when we take our glossy 4-page coursebook unit with theme, topics, skills, content and language points all carefully pre-provided (above), and make an unplugged version of it to feature students' own dialogues and language practice (below):
Here are downloadable versions of both official and "unplugged" units:
Okay, so how on earth could such an open unplugged unit possibly work?
If you've read this far, taken a look at the downloads and are interested in hearing about some of the "method" in my unplugged madness, hopefully the video below can shed more light on things for you. It is rather long, but I've gone into a lot of detail in places and supported many aspects with examples, so that teachers who are genuinely interested in pursuing a methodological but unplugged approach can see some of the fine detail involved.
Jason demonstrates how the "plugged" approach in a coursebook like Boost! Speaking can be "unplugged" to create a unit framework that involves the learners in generating their own content and language practice
Funnily enough, I probably wouldn't even use print-based units like this for my unplugged classes. Everything showcased here could just as easily be facilitated through a lined notebook (saving a lot of photocopying time)! I've formatted the unplugged application in this way just to demonstrate very clearly how it might end up looking on paper.
And please remember that this is just an example method. I don't advocate a single, recycled method for every speaking/conversation class (even if my published coursebooks would appear to indicate otherwise...). Things need to be mixed up and applied in different ways and sequences, even if there is something to be said about a little consistency from one lesson to the next or even one week to the next.
For any teachers reading this post and watching the video who would like a more detailed and step-by-step explanation about how to use this unplugged version of Boost! Speaking, just let me know in the comments section below and I'll do my best to follow up in a later post.
On a final note, if anything at all has appealed to you in this post, next time you pick up or happen to be using a coursebook in class, take a deeper look at it...
Could you and your learners "unplug" it?
Would you dare?