How Context Matters

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18 Responses

  1. Mark Kulek Mark Kulek says:

    Great post Barbara. Just about everything I present I attach a picture. Lately, I have been doing activities based on lexical chunks. I choose I rather vague picture to represent the chunk. I do this to leave more open for the children’s imagination. We take a few chunks to sequence a situation to practice in pairs. After doing these sequences in pairs, we do drawings followed by changing them into other situations, keeping the basic original form.
    Mark in Gifu

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Sounds fascinating, Mark! Could you give an example of a lexical chunk you’ve done this with? Or even better, would you consider writing a post showing us how you use this approach in your classes, and how we could use it, too?

  2. Great post, and glad I was drawn here by @ozge’s tweet.

    I saw Ceri speak at IATEFL and it was probably my favorite presentation. I was blown away by her rhythm and flow between audience questions, partner discussions, lecture-oriented moments. A socially-smart educator !

    I did a class playing with this guessing game and context for “advertising” with my university students in China. It was more of a discussion-starter and driven by the “illogical” nature of “I’m Yao Ming. Drink coke” and yet how these messages are no longer illogical at all, but very accepted. Fun class… involved showing pics one-by-one and next to each other until there was a full on advertisement pic that suddenly within context seemed “odd” in a way it might not have before.

    Thanks again for the post and interesting reflection. 🙂

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      I wish I could have seen the presentation at IATEFL. I wish I had been at IATEFL!

      Sounds like a great class you had. I love how those out-of-context bits attract our attention. When I taught rhetoric (ages ago) I loved when we got to examine advertising and the way ads persuaded (or didn’t persuade) people to buy a product.

      Congratulations on your Lexiophiles nomination for top language twitter, Brad. I always enjoy your tweets, and am glad you’ve received recognition for your contributions!

  3. Breathyvowel says:

    Funny you should mention this, as I recently pinched Ceri’s idea of the picture flashing to introduce one of my lessons. I used a slightly strange picture of a backlit cup-holder from a limousine and it generated far more interest and discussion than anything presented in context. Perhaps, as you suggest, lack of context is the way forward.

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      I would have loved to see that backlit cup-holder shot! It must have been quite attention grabbing!

      Taking things out of context can be effective for drawing students into an activity, but I wouldn’t recommend making it our primary approach. If students know that we’ll always show something out of context, then it loses it’s power, I think. They might just wait for you to get to the part of class when you tell them what it is.

      It’s most powerful because it’s unexpected, so it’s best to mix things up, I think.

  4. Paul Driver says:

    I create context by framing my communicative activities as alternate reality games. It gives my students an opportunity to use the language outside of the classroom, in the real world, to achieve real goals.

    Here’s a clip of one of them in action:

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Wow! I am seriously impressed with your Spy Walking videos. What level students do you use these games with?

      They look like a lot of fun!

  5. Paul Driver says:

    My groups are all mixed ability, ranging from false beginner to advanced. Most of the videos there on YouTube are just small cuts and not intended to be viewed out of context. I had to load them into YouTube to geo-locate and embed them on the map (used for storytelling at a later stage). There’s a link to it on the front page here:

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Wow, wow and wow! I’m very impressed with all the work you’ve put into this–the attention to detail is amazing. Would you be willing to write a guest post explaining how you created these materials, or how you use them with students, or both?

      • Paul Driver says:

        Hi Barbara,

        For some reason i didn’t get the alert that there’d been a follow-up comment so I’ve only just spotted it! Of course i’d love to if the offer is still open.

        If you’re interested, I’m giving a presentation on the use of pervasive games and mobile technologies at IATEFL in Glasgow later this month which I think will be streamed for those who can’t make it.

  6. kylie says:

    Thanks for this post! It has stretched my imagination to think of more ways to bring context (and out of context) into my classroom!!

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