Newsletter 12                                                            2nd  May  2002


Universidad Tecnológica Nacional

Instituto Nacional Superior del Profesorado Técnico

Cátedra de Didáctica Especial del Primer y Segundo Ciclo de la EGB y Práctica de la Enseñanza –Segundo Año


Lecturers  : Omar Villarreal & Andrea Coviella,


Practicum Supervisors :  Marina Kirac, Claudia Alvarez, Marcela Russo, Marisa Caccia, Analía Figliola, Patricia Suárez Rotger and Florencia Raña.


Assistant Teachers: Romina Hirniak and Maria Laura Groppo.


Instituto Superior de Formación Docente Nro 41 - Adrogué

Lecturer: Omar Villarreal



"The most important function of education at any level is to develop the personality of the individual and the significance of his life to himself and to others. This is the basic architecture of a life: the rest is ornamentation and decoration of the structure"

Grayson Kirk



Dear All,


How are you doing? How about your Practicum? I hope everything is running smoothly. But remember that if things are not going as you might have desired,  you always have the second semester to go on with your practice lessons until you become a top quality EGB teacher. That´s our aim __and we know that is your aim too.

In this issue I am very happy to post to you two voluntary (and generous!) contributions by two of your classmates. No doubt sharing summaries, impressions, experiences and answers is a great way to save time and effort (especially when the work load is big). Thank you Valeria and Merlina for your generosity.


I am also very proud to announce that yesterday 1st of May we moved our Website to our new address: www.shareeducation.com.ar

You will notice that the Website is still pretty much the same and that only the address has been changed. This new address will help us to offer you a better service since many “heavy” uploads which the previous server did not accept can now be easily accessed at the new address. We encourage you to visit it and to inform us of any shortcomings we might have overlooked.      


A big hug to you all







I have made a chart, comparing the different Product-oriented syllabuses (Ficha Cat#1, Nunan, chapter 3) and another comparing the different Process-oriented syllabuses (F. Cat.#1, Nunan, chapter 4).

It was a hard task but I find the result -the chart- a much easier way to study. I hope my classmates find it a useful tool, too.


See you on Friday


Valeria Sambucetti

Didactics II Friday morning




Product-oriented Syllabuses










main characteristic

focuses only on formal grammar

places sts & their comm. purposes

at the centre of the curriculum

organised in terms of the purposes for which people’re lrng. lg. & the kinds of lg. performance necessary to meet them






* input is selected and graded according to gram. notions of simplicity and complexity

* lang. consists of a finite set of rules which can be combined to make meaning

* introduce 1 item at a time

* lang. tchg. Purpose: help learners to ‘crack the code’

* once learners have internalised the formal aspects of a given piece of lang, they’ll automatically be able to use it in genuine communic. outside the classroom

* functions: communic. purposes for which we use lang. // notions: conceptual meanings expressed through lang.

* sets realistic learning tasks

* teaching of real-world lang.

* emphasise receptive act. before perform.

* motivating, communic. functions

* can develop naturally

* spiral curric: reintroduces grammatical, topical and cultural material

* allows for flexible, modular courses

*  learners are exposed to lang. which has not been linguistically graded

* starting point for syllabus design: experiential content (rather than linguistic)

* lang. isn’t a subject, but a vehicle for communicating about sth. else

* content-based model          * tasks

* the lang. & content focused on are drawn from the input, & are selected primarily according to what the learner’ll need in order to do the task. So the ling. and the topic knwlg. are applied to the solving of a communicat problem











* misrepresents the complex phenomenon: Language

* not only can 1 form realise more than 1 function, but 1 function can be realised by more than 1 form = complex to design syllab.

* sts. acquire gram. items in a particular order (inbuilt syllabus) = 2 possibilities:

a)       the tchg. syllabus reflects this order,

b)       forget about grading the syllabus structurally

acq. of gram. struct. will be determ. by how difficult those items are to process psycholiguistically, rather than how simple or complex they are grammatically (eg 3ºps “s”)

* assumes learners should be grouped according to stage of grammar proficiency, and that they’ll all progress uniformly

* learners need to use certain lang. str. almost immediately (eg Wh. quest.)

* learners need exposure to different context and over an extended period of time, not only when the items become ‘learnable’

lang. acq. is more a global than a linear process

learner’s syllabus and the textbook/lang. progr. may not be in harmony

* the grading of functional items becomes much more complex (is apologising easier than requesting?)

* simply a change of label (instead of learning “the simple past”, learners might now be required to “talk about the things you did last weekend”)

* dress-rehearsal methodology (replicate in class ‘real’ communication) has a danger: sts may not be able to transfer what they’ve learned to new situations but will only be able to perform in the limited situations which they’ve rehearsed

* content-based model is no more creative than the lang.-based model

* although communicat. competence encompasses more than just ling. compet., ling. compet. is nevertheless an essential element in communicative competence

* often the learner has extensive knowledge in the content domain and is frustrated by what is considered a trivialisation of that content

* little more than a random collection of tasks


gramm. learning should be seen as the raising to consciousness in the learner of the ways gram. and discourse processes operate and interact in the target lang.

Widdowson: “Dividing lang. into discrete units of whatever type misrepresents the nature of lang. as communication”

analytic syllabus designers may incorporate grammatical items into their syllabus as a second-order activity after the topics, situations, etc. have been selected


Process-oriented Syllabuses






The Natural Approach





* organised around tasks, rather than in terms of gramm. and vocab.

* provides a purpose for use & learning a lang.

* syllabus: specification of the tasks and activities sts’ll engage in in class

* focus exclusively on learning processes, there’s little or no attempt to relate these processes to outcomes

* tasks are a more salient unit of planning for teachers than objectives

* Candlin:  tasks should:

- promote attention to meaning, purpose, negotiation

- encourage att. to relevant data

- draw objectives from comm. needs

- allow for flexible approaches

- allow for different solutions

- involve sts contributions, attitudes and affects

- be challenging , but not threatening

- involve lang. use in solving it

- promote train for problem-sensing and problem-solving

- promote sharing info & expertise

- promote monitoring & feedback

- encourage reflection & critical awareness

* Doyle: Tasks’ll need to specify:

- products sts are to formulate

- operations required to generate the product

- resources available to the sts to generate the product

* experiential content, which provides the point of departure for the syllabus, is usu. derived from some fairly well-defined subject area

* selecting subject areas gives logic & coherence

* facilitate learning not merely through lang. but with lang.

* knowledge framework (Mohan):

-          specific side : description, sequence and choice

-          general side: classification, principles and evaluation

topics can be exploited in terms of these 6 categories, and task difficulty is determined by cognit. complexity

* activities (Mohan): ‘combinations of action and theoretical understanding’, are realised through action situations

* ‘move from the practical to the theoretical in teaching & learning’ (Mohan)

* goal: communication skills

* compreh. precedes production

* production emerges (sts aren’t forced to respond)

* activities which promote subconscious acquis. rather than conscious learning are central

* the affective filter is lowered

* Nat Appr is designed to develop basic personal communic. skills, good basis here will lead to greater success in academic learning skills


* represents a change of focus rather than a revolution in syllabus design

* a variety of factors’ll interact to determine task difficulty:

-          degree of contextual support

-          cognitive difficulty

-          amount of assistance provided

-          complexity of the lang.

-          psychological stress

-          amount & type of background knowledge required

* represents a change of focus rather than a revolution in syllabus design


* assumes that lang. consists of a single underlying psychological skill

* Krashen and Terrell think that social aspects of the learning environment are irrelevant to what and how sts learn

some concepts

3 task ‘types’:

information-gap activity; reasoning-gap activity; opinion-gap activity

real-world tasks // pedagogic tasks



learning goals can be divided into:

- basic personal communicat. skills

- academic learning skills






Here is a summary of Nunan (chapter 4)based on que questions from

Merlina Larghi

PS: the last question is missing (out of time to type it !)


Nunan “Syllabus design”

Chapter 4


1)      process-oriented syllabus: focuses on process

product oriented syllabus: focus on product

·        Specifying functions and notions would not itself lead to the development of communicative lang. skills, which prompted to the development of process-oriented views.


2)     The principles underlying procedural and task-based syllabuses are very similar:

·        Concern with the classroom processes which stimulate learning. They therefore differ from syllab in which the focus is on the linguistic items that the students will learn or the communicative skill they will be able to display as a result of instruction.

·        The syllab consists of the specification of the tasks and activities that the learners will engage in in class.


3)    Prabhu’s task* types:

-Information gap activ: involves the transfer of given info from one person to another. Grally calling for the decoding or encoding of info into lang.

-Reasoning gap activity: involves deriving some new info from given info through processes of inference, deduction, practical reasoning, or a participation of relationships or patterns.

-Opinion gap activity: involves identifying and articulating a personal preference, feeling or attitude in response to a given situation



Ø      Teaching should be concerned with creating conditions for coping with meaning in the classroom, to the exclusion of any deliberate regulation of the development of grammatical competence or a mere simulation of lang. behaviour.

Ø      If the desire of knowledge was such that it could operate subconsciously, it was bets for it to develop subconsciously.

Ø      A subconscious part of the mind perceives abstracts or acquires some of the linguistic structuring embodied in those entities, as a step in the development of an internal system of rules.


4)    *Task: a response to the processing or understanding a lang. (process items        Moon)

                  task is meant the hundred and one things people do in everyday life. (Long)

Tasks are more salient unit of planning for teachers than objectives.


5)    Real world tasks the learner might be called upon to perform in real life

      Pedagogic tasks those tasks the learner is required to carry out in the classroom


6)    Candlin offers the following criteria for judging the worth of tasks

  -promote attention to meaning, purpose, negotiation

-         encourage attention to relevant data

-         draw objectives from the communicative needs of learners

-         allow for flexible approaches to the task, offering different routs, media, modes of participation, procedures.

-         Allow for different solutions depending on the skills and strategies drawn on by the learners

-         Involve learner contributions, attitudes, and affects

-         Be challenging but not thretening      -..............



7)    What a teacher’s task needs:

  Doyle –the products that students are to formulate

-         the operations that are required to generate the product

-         the resources availabale to the student to generate the product


Shavelson & Stern  -the subject matter to be taught


-activities the teacher and learners will carry out

-         the goals for the task

-         abilities, needs and interests of the student

-         social and cultural context of instruction


Long (steps in the task-based syllab)

a.      conduct a needs analyses to obtain and inventory of target tasks

b.     classify the target tasks into task types

c.      from the task typpes, derive pedagogical tasks

d.      select and sequence the pedagogical task to form a task syllabus (GRADING)


Grading and sequencing are needed in a syllabus (otherwise is not at syllabus)


9) Content syllabuses : experimental content is usually derived from some fairly well-defined subject area.

   By selecting subject areas (e.g. science, social studies, medicine, computing), the syllabus is given a logic and coherence which might be missing from the analytic syllabuses which are a  little more that random collection of tasks.


10) Mohan’s knowledge framework:

a. Specific practical aspects              – description

(particular examples, specific           - sequence

   cases within the topic)                   - choice


b. General theoretical aspects            -classification

    (what are the gral concepts,             -principles

     principles and values in the             -evaluation

      topic material?)        


·        Mohan claims that any action situation contain the elements listed in the knowledge framework

·        Task difficulty is determined by cognitive complexity.


11) The natural approach :

1. The goal is communication skills

2. comprehension precedes production

3. production emerges

4. activities which promote subconscious acquisition rather than conscious learning are central

5. the affective filter is lowered


Krashen & Terrel’s typology: -most learning goals can be divided into: basic personal communication skills and academic learning skill, and that these can be subdivided into oral and written modes.

Weaknesses in the approach by K&T: the basis of this approach seems to be that assumption that lang. consists of a single underlying psychological skill and that developing the ability to understand 2the radio” will assist the learner to comprehend academic lectures

-the social aspects of the learning environment are irrelevant to the learning.


12)Widdowson        a syllabus is the specification of a teaching programme or a pedagogic agenda which defines a particular subject for a particular groups of learners. (such specification arranges the content as a succession of interim objective

·        Structural syllab: will tend to prompt activities which serve to internalise the formal properties  

                                              of language.

The danger  is that learners may not be able to use their linguistic knowledge in actual communi.


·        Functional-notional syllab: will promote activities which attempt to replicate in class “real”


  Classroom activities become “dress rehearsal” for life encounters.


-Both types assume certain methodological practices.

-(Widdowson) dress rehearsal: the danger of this methodology is that learners may not be able to transfer what they have learned to new situations but will only be able to perform in the limited situations they have rehearsed.


Widdowson : process considerations belong to methodology


Breen: process considerations (‘means rather than ends’) can be consider the province of syllab design


13)Grading  Nunan’s typology of activity types :in which difficulty is determined by the cognitive and performance demands made upon the learner.

Activity type categorised according to learn responses:



Non- verbal

                                                                              No response

                                           Processing                  response                 physical

Material source                                                                                   non-physical


Meaninfull practice

                                           productive               repetition



                                           interactive                 simulated                rehearsal             

                                                                                                            role play

problem solving

                                                                            real          discussion                                                       




·        Using the typology, it is possible to take a given a text or piece of source material and exploit it by devising activities at different levels of difficulty.

·        With ESP and content-base syllab, an obvious means of grading content is with reference to concepts associated with the subject in question.


14) Brown & Yule:

·        suggest that listening tasks can be graded with reference to speaker, intended listener and content.

·        In listening  :The fewer the speakers, the easier to follow

                   Authentic texts which are not addressed to the listener may be boring to the learner

                   A monologue or a familiar topic which is addressed to the listener will be easier to comprehend




·        In speaking: talking in short turns is easier than in long turns

                           Talking to a familiar, sympathetic individual is less demanding than talking to an unfamiliar, uninvolved individual or group.

                          Sth that one knows is easier than a new topic or experience which has little internal organisation.

                         Straight descriptions will be easier that instructions, which will be easier that storytelling.

                        Providing and justifying opinions will be the most difficult.