The email experiment continues ….
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting with emails and extending my classes beyond the classroom.
In the first post I wrote about the experiment, Every lesson tells a story, I described how I was using lesson summaries to embed and highlight new language that emerged during the class. In The story continues, I showed an example of how the tasks, and feedback on the tasks, evolve into an ongoing dialogue.
In this post I’d like to take a closer look at the use of footnotes in replying to the students’ emails. And how they open up a dialogue where we negotiate meaning and comment on form, and continue to communicate about the topics we discussed face to face in class.
Here is an extract from an email from one of the students. I’m going to break it up into sections. The first section shows an extract from M’s initial response to one of the email tasks. The numbers in green relate to notes I added to the text when I first replied.
On the First day (7) was very tired. I chose the wrong shoes to walk!!! Apart to (8) leaving cv’s I was in the city center the second day at night. I met other friend there. I was 2 months I didn’t see him (9). We were in a few typical bars having “cañas” before going to a vegetarian restaurant to dinner. In those bars we had cañas at the bar but, we had dinner sitting down at the restaurant.
When we had a rest we sit (sat) on a bench and looked at the people on the streets. They went and back (10) very quickly!! Simply…It’s Madrid!! I love it!!
Friday…because of (11) on Friday afternoon the companies are closed, we were on the sofa! We were at home watching on the TV a learning English channel “Aprende Inglés TV” (Vaugham Method) It’s fantastic!! I advice everypeople to watch it or to listen to the radio channel. It’s other (5) way to improve your English in your free time.
I usually watch it when I’m doing my houseworks (12)….lol…
This was my initial response:
Sounds like you had a good weekend, even if it was hard (and sometimes depressing?) work taking your CV all around town! I know Vaughan Systems too. The radio programme is amazing. It’s a very different way to study English – and great to do when you’re doing the ironing or the washing up!
Here are a few short notes – see the numbers in green above. Let me know if there’s anything that needs explaining.
The extract you see below shows the to-ing and fro-ing of three separate emails with the comments growing each time in colour-coded splendour. My initial notes are in green, M’s answers, which came back to me in a subsequent email (the third in the series) are in red. My answers, which I sent in a fourth email, are in blue.
(7) I was very tired? or Friday was very tiring? I almost wrote “tiring”!!! I thought about it too much!!! I wanted to talk about the Friday… ah, thinking can be very dangerous 😉
(8) apart from Ok!
(9) this is a difficult sentence to put together in English! I hadn’t seen him for 2 months. It’s been a typing mistake…Could be also it said “It was 2 months ago I didn’t see him”.too? No, I’m afraid not. This is one of those ideas that’s expressed very differently in English compared to Spanish. But you could say: The last time I saw him was 2 months ago
(10) They were coming and going … ? It sounded very bad “went and back” but I didn’t find other one better… but I understood exactly what you wanted to say – experimenting is good, that’s how we learn 🙂
(11) you don’t need of here – we use because of + noun / because + clause. I would like you clear me up this question next day, please… no problem, I’ll make a note of it now so I remember!
(12) housework is uncountable which means it’s always singular – no final “s” This “S” has slipped up??? LOL -sounds like it slipped in to me 😉
There are a few things that stand out to me about this email dialogue. One is that it’s a kind of slow motion, asynchronous reflection of the kind of dialogue that often goes on in class when dealing with emergent language. But so much easier to capture and analyse in this form. Another is that, even though it isn’t in real time, it’s actually quite intense, and there’s a very strong sense of individual attention being given, received and appreciated. But at the same time, this dialogue is being played out in public as the students have volunteered to share their tasks and the corrections after a short initial “private period”. I really think this aspect of the course has helped the group bond much more quickly and more strongly than they would have otherwise.
By the way …
In response to footnote #11 we spent the first half of the next lesson looking at the use of because and because of, kicking off with examples from M’s story, looking at form and meaning and then setting up situations to talk about the other students’ weekend experiences as well. (We brainstormed adjectives to describe their weekends, wrote them on the board, and each student talked about why they’d chosen that adjective. Plenty of examples of because and because of came up, along with a host of new language to explore.)