Thursday, September 14, 2017

Minding Education for Educating the mind


Open your mind,
Let your brain breathe

            Open your mind only once and you will never be able to close it again. With an open mind, life looks infinite and interesting, but some people persistently never want to open their minds for fear they should be disturbed by the bright evidence that they were in the dark. There are people who look as if they prefer sticking to ignorance. There are no stupid learners except the ones who never accept openness and improvement. They don’t want to exert any mind effort. They just wait for the teacher to offer them readymade answers to global issues. When teachers give anything, they must show that every piece of knowledge has an expiration date. Nothing is permanent in knowledge. The previous year already belongs to the far primitive past. Therefore learners have to make use of what they learn at school in progressing by themselves using their minds. This way they’ll perceive the world from different angles as it will have varied shapes, colors and dimensions. They’ll gain a new perspective for transforming old views and ideas into a powerful tool for improvement which will not only affect the world around them, but it will have a positive impact on their future.

            The social web has greatly affected the students’ knowledge and beliefs as the mind is very sensitive to the environment it belongs to. The social media has the power to shape a new risky culture for the new generation. Now most of the youth are hooked on the multiplying social networking sites, and they are normally receiving huge quantities of information that forge their thoughts and tendencies. They have neither the time nor the skills necessary to sift, pick up, adapt and adopt knowingly. The impact is so significant that school has to boost the students’ minds to be able to evaluate and filter the input. Most of the information they encounter is wide-ranging and often fallacious or contradictory. It is also far from being scientifically proven. Most of it is generally an amalgamation of impressions and volatile pieces of information that have no basis in reality. Therefore, the damage on the brain is fatal, and it could lead to serious dysfunction of the mind, or even complete brainwash.

            If you cannot understand a text in the way the author wants you to understand it, it is not the writer’s problem, and it is not yours either. I am sure the problem is in the content of the text. Fair enough, isn’t it? Maybe, but there should be a certain degree of compatibility between the waves of transmission and those of reception; otherwise both the writer’s mind and yours have different natures. The writer and the reader are accomplices in forming the meaning of the text. The mind is the machine which can transmit and receive information according to its references or conceptions based on formerly installed programs. That’s why closed minds never tolerate anything which doesn’t dovetail with its already existing fossilized designs and thinking patterns. Open minds, on the other hand, have habits and traits which are so flexible that they can receive, analyze, synchronize, and then accept or reject providing sufficient arguments for each of both reactions. Therefore, it all depends on the type of mind one has.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Expressing Concession & Contrast Creatively


            At school, creativity killers are numerous, and they are not easily detectable because they are mostly unintentional. It is after rigorous investigations that they can be spotted and avoided for more creativity among the learners. Basically, creativity is killed by orders, fear, control, conformity, conditioning and so on. Susan Greenfield says that “growing up” is what kills creativity. True, because adults have already developed ways to do things and refuse to think about alternative ways. Creativity is revived by the need for something, like saving time, effort, material, space, money, energy and a lot more. This reminds me of the old proverb which goes, “The art of necessity is strange, it makes vile things precious

            Simply, what kills creativity at school is “Do it this way”. And it is in tests that the phenomenon is amplified, “Rewrite as indicated” or “Rewrite with the words given”. When we ask the students to do an activity in a predisposed way, they don’t have enough options to think creatively. However, like problem solving, when we ask them to do an exercise in their own way, they might astonish us by doing it in a way that has never come across our minds, and that’s creativity.

            “Here is a “useless” thing, what can you do with it? How can you make it useful for something? Give it a new feature to make it functional somehow”. These instructions incite creativity and allow the students to think beyond the usual. Believe me if the students were given freedom to do a task in their own way, they would do it marvelously well. They can even reveal a lot about their thinking strategies, and why not about their innate genius faculties. On the other hand, those with little or no imagination will be forced to sharpen their imagination and thinking skills to come up with rewarding results.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ambiguity tolerance as a key skill for maintaining lifelong language learning

“The greater the ambiguity, the greater the pleasure”
Milan Kundera


            Ambiguity in communication represents a big threat for EFL learners. They immediately surrender and stop learning as soon as they couldn’t understand the connections of items which might help them construct meaning. Therefore, the teacher has to handle this problem:
         1. Either by never using texts with ambiguous words or structures
         2. Or by teaching the learners how to cope with ambiguity.

         I guess the first solution is completely inappropriate because texts in real life situations are not all ambiguity free. Besides, it kills creativity and deactivates thinking. So, the second is the most convenient approach although it requires hard work and prudence to implement it.

         Tolerating ambiguity is “a tendency to perceive or interpret information marked by vague, incomplete, fragmented, multiple, probable, unstructured, uncertain, inconsistent, contrary, contradictory, or unclear meanings as actual or potential sources of psychological discomfort or threat” (Ely, 1995, p. 88). 

         Striving to learn a foreign language is already an indication that the learners are aware of the difficulty of the task and that they are ready to tolerate novelty as well as ambiguity. Despite the diversity of learning styles and personality traits, the students, especially the prejudiced ones, have to be tolerant towards pragmatic ambiguity so as to be able to smash the barriers of dogma which generally impede them from accomplishing normal and successful interaction with ambiguous input of any sort. Ambiguity intolerance can be summed up as the rejection of and resistance to the unusual or different intermittent stimuli which don’t correlate with previously formed ideas and adopted attitudes.

         This paper aims at showing how comprehension of a text should not only focus on understanding the explicit but also the inferential meaning with a little inclination towards training the learners to tolerate vagueness since moderate level of ambiguity can have very positive effects on poor or incomplete schemata. Apart from Frege*, perhaps, everybody else agrees that ambiguity is a very powerful tool.  In a language learning context, simplicity but not simplification is what urges the learners to grasp the technique of assimilating the dubious and ambiguous about texts in order to be able, later on, to go further with undertaking ambiguity resolutions in real life situations.
* Gottlob Frege (1848/1925), German philosopher, Mathematician and logician.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What is it really like to be a teacher nowadays?

Nothing about doing the job of a teacher is easy. So, if you choose this thorny mission for a career, do it perfectly well or die trying. Don’t just expect from anyone to appreciate what you do.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Present Perfect Tense for EFL learners


"Nothing is "perfect" even the so called perfect tenses"

            The present perfect tense is particularly confusing for learners of English as a foreign language from various angles. All the English tenses describe actions in relation to the time of their happening or their position in the sequence of events in the past, the present or the future. Only the present perfect tense doesn't really seem to abide by this rule. It is vague for speakers of other languages as it describes actions or events as having happened before the moment of speaking and no more details after that.

           Because it is vague, the present perfect needs too many details to make itself comprehensible and all those details have to be taken into consideration for authentic natural communication. Teaching the tense to speakers of other languages has to be approached carefully. This paper will try to present one way for teaching this tense with almost all its features.

Continue reading

Friday, June 26, 2015

What is wrong with this writing prompt?

            When it comes to writing topics, several sensible elements have to be regarded with a lot of concern, the most important of which is motivating individual critical creativity. For this reason some crucial details have to be considered meticulously to be the maximum open to all categories of testes, for example

(1) The gender divide
Girls’ and boys’ generally diverge in personal interests and capabilities. Talking about equal opportunities means being careful about the topics for writing tests
- Describing a football match (boys are good at that)
- How to make an apple-pie (girls are great)
(2) Cultural particularities (food, marriage, clothes, footwear etc)
(3) Geographic locations (city life Vs country life)
(4) Social classes (Describe a tour with a Ferrari / a trip by plane / How do you like Caviar? etc)
(5) Avoiding polarizing topics
(6) Not too tight and narrow nor too broad topics.
(6) etc.

With such topics, we must be very careful especially with writing assignments for a wide range of candidates from different regions, with different customs, economic status and gender, and also with different inclinations and capabilities. Any small deviation can be fatal for a great number of candidates, and will shake the right of equal opportunity. Therefore, proposed topics for writing tasks should take a lot of various details into account.

Someone may think this is overstatement because all that the candidate needs to do is to write with correct English. If this is the way they view writing assignments, I am sorry to say it but they don’t know what they are meddling with.

Now, this is the topic proposed (imposed) for 2ème Bac. Scientific streams in the writing section of the first session English exam (June 2015)

The Topic

Your friend doesn’t use facebook. Write an email telling him/her about the advantages of using this social network.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Grammar for Learners with poor narrative skills

Table of contents

° Forward ------------------------------------------------------------- 3
° Teaching writing via grammar lessons ---------------------------- 4

° Part I
           The simple past tense
- What happened? ---------------------------------------------------- 5
- The past simple from discrete sentences to narration ------------ 6

° Part II
         The past continuous tense
- What was happening? ---------------------------------------------- 7
- The past progressive from grammar to Narration ---------------- 9
- Implementation ----------------------------------------------------- 9
- Students’ sample writings ----------------------------------------- 11

° Part III
       The past perfect: Simple & progressive
- Sequence of events ----------------------------------------------- 15
- Illustration --------------------------------------------------------- 16
- Conclusion ------------------------------------------------------- 17

Key words: 
writing, narration, past tenses, simultaneity, sequence of events, recount, cohesion,
coherence, unity of the topic, connectives,


          Narration is a skill which needs a relatively high scale in language manipulation and communication abilities. Like everyone else, the teenagers are also fervently keen on recounting their past experiences, telling tales, and making up stories especially in a foreign language to share with people from other cultures. Yet,
they are frustrated as the use and usage of language is an eminent obstacle hard to overcome overnight. Consequently they give in and never try again. What a loss!

         As these same learners love grammar classes so much, I've thought of teaching them narrative writing through grammar. I mean teaching the past tenses for the sake of paving the way for them to break the silence barrier and tell what they have to tell. I suppose when they learn the past tenses, they will be able to make use of them to tell about past events in a clearly well-organized and comprehensible way.

         Teaching grammar for the sake of writing purposes is more beneficial for the learners who have a lot of ideas, vocabulary and expressions and are eager to exploit them to improve their narrative skills. Therefore, why not teaching them the tenses in contexts to take as models to copy and then gradually try to write their own texts. This has greatly facilitated using English for them to come up with exciting recount writings?

         In this first part, I’ll concentrate on how to make possible exploiting teaching the past simple tense to enjoin the students to write about their personal deeds some time in the past, last night, yesterday, last week(end), last month, last summer holiday, last year and so on.

         The combination of the simple past and the past progressive in accurate grammatical and semantic structures can result in astonishing stories provided that the imagination is fertile and the vocabulary repertoire is relatively rich, hence the gate for inventing fictitious stories becomes possible. The students need to master the use of the tenses in addition to some linking words such as “when”, “while”, “before” and “after” to focus only on these four in this stage.

        Teaching compound sentences describing actions in the past is better done through simultaneity showing that two or more actions happened or were happening at the same time. Later on they could learn to use the past perfect and the simple past to set chronology about actions in the past using more connectives apart from “before and “after”, like “as soon as”, “no sooner .. than”, “by the time”, “x days/months/years later” and so on.

         The learners get motivated because all that they need is to surmount the obstacle of describing simultaneous actions or sequencing events in the past. This measure is crucial to allow them to recount their experiences or share what happened to them or describe events for the sake of informing, entertaining or reflecting. Grammar thus can be successfully employed to target and boost the learners’ narrative skills and communicative competence.