Monday, October 17, 2011

Trial and error and trial again

It wasn't until the late 1960's that we changed our paradigm of ESL students as producers of faulty English to intelligent, creative thinkers who are working through the progression.  A progression to produce closer and closer approximations of the complicated linguistic system that native speakers use with ease.

We started to look not just at the errors that the students were making but at the creative brilliance behind their successful hypothesizing and testing routines.  Encouraging good habits of hypothesizing and testing, encouraging students to make the errors and learn from them and providing an environment where the students feel not just safe but enthusiastic about doing this is simply the hallmark of a strong ESL educator.

But how do you measure up with your consistency in confirming or refuting these hypotheses?  In his book Teach like a champion, Doug Lemov gives some great tips on how to establish a standard for right and wrong answers and states that it is important to uphold the standard.  Giving a response that does not confirm the correctness or incorrectness of the answer in the students' minds is not doing them any justice.
And therein lies the balance of being a strict judge and a lenient peacemaker.  The greatest skill that a teacher can have is the ability to constantly monitor and correct the troops and yet maintain the morale to keep them marching.

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