This course makes balanced and innovative use of the internet to present teachers with a balanced and challenging introduction to a field that is almost wholly neglected. Most children who are assessed as dyslexic are either withdrawn from most of their lessons, or given no chance at all to learn a language. Others are placed in mixed ability classes with no special help, in the sure and certain knowledge that they will fail. Participants on this course are not expected to agree with every word of it, and are given opportunities to comment, argue and interact with instructors and other course members at every stage, using the comments board. There are video demonstrations, research references - on which I'll post separately - recommended reading, and assignments. A certificate of participation is available for £39, though this is not a strong point, as participants to not need to complete the course in order to receive it. Otherwise the course is free.
Participants are invited to submit a lesson plan for discussion by their fellow-students. Mine was a little too long to post on the site, so here it is:
Spanish, Lesson 1.
From experience and observation, failure in language learning often begins in the first lesson, where pupils are not expected fully to understand the language they are given. My approach ensures complete success in this first lesson and begins the process of adjusting the learner's thinking so that they can say what they want to say in their new language. An outline of the whole approach, and its consistency with the emerging evidence from neuroscience, is on my site johnbald.typepad.com, beginning with the ppt downloadable from http://johnbald.typepad.com/language/eliminating-failure-in-language-learning.
This assignment demonstrates a multisensory approach to a first lesson in Spanish for speakers of English. I vary the content of the lesson according to the needs of the class or student, but I introduce colours at an early stage, using the ppt at this
Many of the features of Spanish pronunciation that are new to English speakers can be learned and explained in this first lesson. One way to start is to write rojo on the board, and go round the room pointing at red things and having children repeat the word. Then have them study the word. What letter is not giving us the same sound as in English? They will notice j. Then look away from the board and trace rojo on their sleeve with their finger. Who got it nearly right? Who got it completely right? Who remembered j? They will probably all have got it right first time, as there is only one new thing to remember. Once they've done this with finger tracing, they can write on a miniboard or in a notebook. I repeat with these further colours, unpacking the new feature, explaining and practising until the pupils have it completely right, and have the satisfaction of knowing that they can write it as well as say it.
The key features are:
- rojo Stress on first syllable, j giving h sound.
- azul Stress on second syllable, z giving th sound.
- amarillo, stress on penultimate syllable, 11 giving a distinctive, y sound.
- verde, Spanish v sound, very light touch of the lips. Have pupils say very, and feel their top teeth touch their bottom lip. The teeth don't touch in Spanish, but the sound is not a hard plosive as in bad.
- marrón Ask if children can see anything here they wouldn't see in an English word. They might call the accent a line or something similar. Explain that the accent is our friend, and tells us what to stress
Once something is learned, I use it as a starter in the next lesson. For colours, I might pick up three pencils of different colours. I'll say three colours, one or two of which will be wrong, before giving the right combination. At each stage, I'll ask if I've got it right. Children find this amusing, and soon recognise colours.
At an early stage, and sometimes in the first lesson, I use the same approach to sentence building using tengo. I explain that Spanish people usually take a shortcut by not putting in the companion word (pronoun) that we need to use in English. I'll ask if they can see the two English words in tengo - ten and go - and they'll write it on their sleeve. I'll then explain hermano and hermanas, pointing out the final letter as a useful guide - but not an infallible one - and they'll trace and write some sentences saying how many brothers and sisters they have. Finally, no tengo to indicate a negative.
Around half of the children can learn to write sentences in this way, without copying, from the age of seven, and I've had no failures from the age of eight onwards. Eliminating Failure Slide 33 shows the result from a pupil assessed as dyslexic, in an ordinary class, after one lesson.