Often attendees at the annual Ohio TESOL conference bounce from session to session seeking just the right one. Some gather in the lobby, hoping colleagues will suggest a worthwhile session. Eventually, you find a captivating one. The captivator for me was Vilvi Vannak. She is the Academic Support Services Coordinator for the Columbus Literacy Council, an organization TESOL graduate students are familiar with, given the amount of time we spend observing and volunteering at ELL support service organizations throughout our community.
Vannak discussed pros and cons of following a curriculum. New teachers prefer them, veterans avoid them. How do we know what’s best? We don’t exactly. It’s mandated for some teachers, or the institution is flexible enough for teachers to steer away from traditional curriculums, which some argue reduces the opportunity for communicative instruction, due to time constraints and curricular expectations.
Then there is the how? Just how do we follow a “curriculum,” whatever type, and engage our students towards success? The format was an open dialogue in which pros and cons of curriculums were debated. Ultimately, solutions were formed on an individual basis. Some are successful following curriculum guidelines, while others are successful in different, more inventive ways.
Let’s not forget homework. How do we entertain the idea of homework in any classroom setting, adult, primary and secondary, or higher education? It was agreed upon that students turn in homework if they have the time to complete it, if it is within their level of L2 competency, and if it is fun. Now incorporate homework, fun, and engagement into your curriculum. The problem for most teachers is you can, shared Vannak, but most are not able to given time constraints. Is there professional development for this? Sure, but also ask the student what they value in instruction, or what is most useful to them. Isn’t education supposed to relate to real life situations? I should hope so…otherwise, how will we use what we learn?
More information on the Columbus Literacy Council can be found here: http://www.columbusliteracy.org.