Really enjoyed watching Scott Thornbury’s video ‘It’s my theory’.

I’ll make some notes here:

All teachers have theories from day 1, whether they can articulate them or not.

  • These theories come from language learning experiences, folk theories (non-expert theories, e.g.  the fastest, magical ways to learn.), initial training.
  • These will be filtered through our personal values and beliefs.
  • Later on, we will gain more knowledge from reading, further training, and experience as learners/teachers.
  • Through a reflective approach, we move from doing to reflecting, to concluding , to trying out what we’ve learned.
  • Our theories may become more adaptive, flexible.

Did you hear + difficult Egyptian singer’s name?

Thornbury often mentions a time when a student could not use the present perfect spontaneously in a lesson that actually focused on the present perfect. This created a puzzle for Thornbury. He was drilling the tense. Students were performing fine. But as soon as they switched to real communication, the present perfect went out the window. Why? There is no present perfect equivalent in Arabic and the default form students go back to is the past simple.

 Teachers and learners cannot simply choose what is to be learned. To a large extent the syllabus is built into the Iearner.

Skehan (1996)

Thornbury used this chart to reflect on that lesson:

He thought his theory perhaps wasn’t useful in this specific lesson so he decided to read more, to look at what other people have discovered. Different views which he would need to reflect on. To develop an adaptive theory.

Is there an L2 acquisition order? It’s not as simple as that.

  • It’s systematic in terms of stages students go through but these are very individual, as well as non-linear.
  • It does matter what the learner’s first language is. Is it Greek? Is it Chinese? There is a difference.

What should we do?

Should we change our teaching based on what authors say? No. We can read and reflect. Think critically about our own practice, about what our peers or superiors are telling us to do.

Thornbury’s 2 main takeaways:

  • Maintain a healthy skepticism.
  • Cultivate a ravenous curiosity.