I attended MATSOL for the first time last week. On Friday, I joined Pamela Vittorio, the lead author for Next Generation Grammar 3, to talk about our work on Pearson’s newest grammar series. I was thankful that I was able to hear one of the keynote speakers and attend a couple of sessions before the day was through. I’m happy I can share some highlights with you. I’ll start with the keynote speaker at the Friday luncheon.
Using Brain Research to Enhance and Energize Language Instruction: The Multiple Pathways Model. Dr. Janet Zadina was wonderfully engaging and delivered an information-packed presentation on brain research. Through her studies in cognitive neuroscience and with her experience in education, Dr. Zadina was able to help attendees better understand how we learn and how we can help students learn a language. She began by highlighting the importance of one’s readiness to learn and the belief in one’s ability to learn. The existing state of the learner must be considered. While we want students appropriately aroused (with their interest in the lesson peaked), we can make lessons engaging and memorable without bringing in anxiety or trauma. A positive atmosphere facilitates learning, and teachers must make the environment as rich and meaningful as possible.
The presentation helped me retain the concept of how synapses are formed and how learning means making connections from existing neural information to new information. Dr. Zadina pointed out the importance of connecting to a learner’s background information and building a foundation. In the case of learning sounds, we received the suggestions to exaggerate contrast, provide multiple encounters with the sound spoken by different speakers, and allow for an extensive speaking-listening experience. As for grammar, Dr. Zadina recommends asking students to figure out grammar rules rather than giving the rules to them. Dr. Zadina went on to explain that people learn what is important to them.
Other take-away thoughts from this talk include the fact that our learners’ brains are working harder than ours during a lesson. That should prompt us to reduce their cognitive load and keep out distractions. I also appreciated the insight that we do not have the brain we are born with; we have the brain we create. The ability of the brain changes. Finally, we all left with the reminder to use information or it will get lost. In Dr. Zadina’s words, “Fire until you wire.”
Thank you, Dr. Zadina, for sharing your insights!
More highlights to come!