The Minimalist ALT
was inspired by a group of Japanese elementary school teachers I was training who told me they wanted to learn activities that require 'no preparation, no materials, and are time-flexible.' Don't we all!!
The result not only changed my own teaching style, it made my life at school a LOT easier! But more importantly, the students enjoy the classes and use English in real and meaningful ways.
Scroll down to learn how to teach... with less.

March 3, 2009

How the Activities are Divided

The activities presented on The Minimalist ALT are divided 3 ways: by language part; by teaching, practicing & testing; and by pattern-focus or meaning-focus. These divisions are based on natural language learning modes and usage, and have direct implications on how activities are chosen and sequenced in the classroom.

The Language Parts: Words; Sentences & Negatives; Yes/No Questions; Wh- Questions; and Commands. These divisions cover very simply almost all of the kinds of language that we teach. In conversation, each of these patterns requires a different kind of response. Developing awareness of these divisions in students helps to overcome such common errors as: 'What's your name?' 'Yes, I do!' and 'My name is Elton.' 'No.' Using these divisions also makes it very easy for teachers to select appropriate activities for the target patterns being taught.

Teaching, Practicing & Testing: These three activities pretty much cover all that we do in the classroom. In regards to ordering activities within a lesson, another commonly recognized point is paramount: Everyone's listening vocabulary is always larger than their speaking vocabulary. Or in another way, input preceeds output in language learning. Input can be either listening or reading; output can be either speaking or writing. Regarding these four language skills, speaking and conversational interaction are the fastest; as such, the other skills can serve to build competence before students are required to demonstrate speaking ability.

Pattern-focused or Meaning-focused activity: Words, and similarly language structures, are commonly said to have two distinct features: sound and meaning (there are, of course, also rhythm, written form, feeling, and more). Based on this, I think how we say something, and what it means, are likewise a natural division in choosing language activities. Placing pattern-focused activities prior to meaning-focused activities in the teaching sequence is also natural: this is what we say, this is how we say it, and this is what it means. Using this natural sequence in choosing and ordering activities has been very helpful in my lesson planning.