What you see in the image above has come out of the printer that I sit next to around 25 hours a week, and has been printed by a trainee on a pre-service course (probably CELTA), who is probably about to ask to borrow my scissors to cut the words up.
In this example, we have a list of words; often it's sentences, each word of which has been printed at font size 100 or so, also to be sliced up, so that the sentence can be BluTacked to the wall or lain out on the floor (possibly first having been photocopied into identical sets), after which the students "mingle" and put the sentence back together again.
Sometimes it's images of every day objects — like Metro tickets and mp3 players and mobile phones, as you see above — that could so easily have been drawn or pointed to instead, but which have been printed under the absurd notion that an image is worth 1000 words, when often it really isn't!
The other day, we had someone printing single phonetic symbols (!!!), as huge as possible, each on a separate piece of paper, then to be magnified further via the photocopier.
This happens all day, every day, whether the trainees are on CELTA or Spanish teacher training courses, and I suspect that someone somewhere (a coursebook writer…?) must have come up with this "idea", and people on teacher training courses must now be taught that this is a great (???) "activity" or "task", or whatever they call it.
It has to stop.
I say that partly as further promotion for my one-man, entirely unsuccessful campaign to smash the photocopier in all language schools around the world and I say it for these three reasons:
- It's unsustainable environmentally. If every sound (not word, sound!!!) we ever taught language learners needed to printed, how long would it take us to wipe out the rainforests? This matters! Even if you still refuse to believe the evidence of global warming (video).
- It's an absurd waste of the trainee's/teacher's time. Do you really need to go and find a computer and print and photocopy the term mobile phone (or find an image of one) when there's a mobile phone in everyone's pocket and they already know the word anyway?
- It's so 20th century. As course tutors we need to stop recommending this activity. It encourages trainees to continue backwards into the 20th century, to imagine that PC+projector, together with printer+photocopier is technology, when in fact the world has kind of slightly moved on from that, and it may well be that those four "P"s are things the learners only ever encounter in the time warp they enter when they set foot in a language classroom.
When was the last time a trainee doing teaching practice on a CELTA course got the learners to use an app? Perhaps, just perhaps, they should be doing that…
Get? The rain forest wept! You don't need to print the word get!