FLTEACH : Suggestions for Appropriate Assignments for Students in Second Language Teaching Methods Classes

FLTEACH is a very busy professional discussion list for language teaches, but it is more than a "list", it is a community. We welcome students preparing to enter the FL teaching profession, and we believe that participation on FLTEACH can be a valuable preparation for these students. Many FL Teaching Methods classes include assignments linked to FLTEACH participation. Some of these assignments work very well, others less well.

With a high volume of postings on a wide range of topics, participation can be overwhelming for a busy student for whom this is "just an assignment". We hope, here, to offer some suggestions to help instructors frame FLTEACH related assignments in ways that will make the experience more manageable and rewarding for their students.

There are many ways to participate in FLTEACH. The volume of mail can be more manageable if the student filters all FLTEACH mail into a separate mail folder. The HTML Index option provides a daily listing of posts with links to the text in the archives. A LISTSERV password can allow the participant to better manage FLTEACH participation view the web (this includes participation via the archives).

In addition to basic list participation, other components of FLTEACH might be considered:
List options, Web site http://www.cortland.edu/flteach/, Archives, FAQs, Biography database, Subscriber statistics, Instructional Materials Database, Annotated bibliography for SLA, Collection of syllabi for FL Teaching Methods.

Assignments can be based on observation and reflection on how professionals interact, on the range of discussion, on the level of support provided by a community of colleagues. It can also involve active participation via posts by the student (in which case some advice on how to compose an effective post can make a huge difference).

Students who may be "required" to post messages before developing a good sense of the community, of what works and what doesn't, who may have little or no experience in the classroom or practical basis on which to build a real question, may tend to pose questions that are so broad that the answers would be, in and of themselves, a methodology book / course. Some get answers, some don't. When FLTeachers read them, they may find themselves on the one hand wanting to help a potential colleague, on the other hand totally unable to even begin to formulate a relatively concise answer, and frankly, kind of irritated that they can't.

Here are some suggestions from Mary Young & Marilyn Barrueta that FLTEACH subscribers can add to, develop, modify, etc. Methods instructors might wish to add samples of their own assignments. Wiki away...
Ideas for FLTEACH Assignments:

  • Ask the students to go to the website (yes, much to the surprise of some people there's a website. The link is at the bottom of *every* list message. It is a veritable cornucopia of resources.
  • The FAQS; a marvelous compilation of messages addressing specific topics. Some of them, such as Advice to the Beginning Teacher, could be of far greater value to a prospective teacher than just posting a question. Have them choose a topic and report on it.
  • The Lesson Plan Database; Search for a topic or plan that interests you and critique it.
  • The Annotated Bibliography; Take a look and compile a list of resources that look as though you might want to include them in your professional library.
  • Under Resources: Choose your language, find a topic, and report on it.
  • Last, but not least: the ARCHIVES. In the 15 year history of FLTeach, there have been some absolutely awesome participants and contributions, all of which are in the archives -- conversations with Krashen, huge compilations of ideas by contributors who, for various reasons, are no longer with us. Yes, there's a lot of chaff, but you'd be amazed at what pearls are there. If you doubt, put the name Cherice Montgomery in there and turn on your printer.
  • And finally, if you do want them to pose a question, please ask them make it very specific AND indicate what research they have already done to try to answer it. The greatest lesson in help that we can give as teachers to how one can help oneself. Inviting your students to participate on FLTEACH is an excellent idea. They will get more satisfaction from the exercise, however, if you also show them how to frame a question specific enough for list members to respond to. Many of us are happy to cooperate, but many of these apparently simple questions require pages to answer properly.

Methods students, this is one of the greatest resources you will ever have, a living, breathing source of help, your virtual teachers' lounge. Methods teachers, give them an assignment that shows them how to use it.
An example of one assignment courtesy Bryan Drost, Hiram College, Ohio.
An example of an assignment given by Sarah Jourdain, StonyBrook University, NY.