Thursday, April 25, 2013

LTMOOC - week 2

This week we read some interesting articles about Content-Based Instruction by Stoller (2002), Input by Szynalski, and Inputs/Outputs activities.  Below, you will find my reflections about these topics.

In regards to CBI, I would say my teaching is pretty much based on content because I teach advanced classes. This semester I am teaching a Spanish composition class and our writing practice is framed within topics or themes. So for example, we were discussing a unit on Children in Latinoamerica and their challlenges. Students had to read articles about children and labor work in some Hispanic countries. Students also watched some videos about issues related with being a kid in a hispanic country. One of the videos was a TED talk about "El Sistema", a social program of children orchestras in Venezuela. Students were very interested about this topic so I decided to invite one of the young directors in El Sistema to talk and be interviewed by the class via Skype. Students prepared questions and were really motivated to be able to use Spanish to get more information about El Sistema. Some students chose to write their final projects about this topic with their own perspectives (e.g., trata de los niños en latinoamerica, adopciones en Guatemala). Therefore, I would say the content is the meat of my class and technology definitely help students access the content and use it to write about different topics using the L2.

I really believe input -oral or written, especially in the form of reading for my Writing class, is key when learning a second language. However, I have to disagree with the Szynalski in several points. He points out the input hypothesis as the only way to learn a language when different SLA scholars have pointed out the just input is not enough. There are multiple variables such as motivation (see studies by Dornyei, quality of the input, opportunities for interactions (see studies by Long) or to produce the language, that could affect the second language acquisition process.  He also diminishes the role of output  in the SLA equation when we know that it's only when students are asked to produce when they realize what they can or can't do with the language (see studies by Swain). When students produce the language (output), they get the opportunity to get feedback about their language and thus get more input. Feedback and how it is given and received is crucial. I have learned as an English learner that receiving technical explanations about language forms as feedback does not work for me.  The most valuable feedback for me is the one directed to the message/content and how effective the language I am using is to make it comprehensible for the reader or listener.     

For the inputs/outputs activity, I believe the relevance of specific kinds of inputs or outputs can only be determined taking into account the specific language learning goals of the learner. So if I have a student who wants to learn how to write academic papers, maybe listening to a song on the bus is not that relevant for his learning purposes. But that same oral input (the song) can be motivating for a beginner student that just want to learn about the culture and how to use the language in real life situations.


  1. Thanks for pointing out complementary/contradictory research. I think it's important that we value ideas like content-based learning in their own right, but we shouldn't ignore other research while doing so!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic opportunity and use of TED! We will be using a lot of TED talks in Spanish 200! I love the idea of getting to meet the famous speakers of a particular topic :)

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  4. Thanks for your comments to my post.

  5. Your insights are informed not only from theory reading, but also from years of practice, and you present them in a very clear way.