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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: November 2012

7 - Teaching flexibly


The previous chapter described the ways in which language teachers manage individual students in their classes. It showed that many of the strategies of experienced language teachers can be understood in terms of a desire to channel the energies of individuals in positive directions, while minimising the negative effect that the behaviour of individuals can have on the social wellbeing of their class groups. It also drew attention to the fact that the spontaneous classroom actions of experienced language teachers are based on noticing behavioural clues and rapidly responding to them in ways that they consider appropriate.

The present chapter focuses on pedagogic aspects of classroom language teaching, explaining how and why language teachers teach in such flexible ways. It is divided into four sections. Section 7.1 dispels two myths: that teachers teach in pre-planned ways, and that teachers teach from textbooks in the prescribed manner. Section 7.2, which occupies the major part of the chapter, presents a key premise of the book: that it is their capacity to draw on all their previous classroom experience that enables language teachers to make so many executive decisions in their classrooms with such speed and assurance. This section explains how sensitivity to students' learning needs enables experienced language teachers both to deviate in major ways from their lesson plans, and to digress in minor ways during the course of classroom activities. It also draws attention to the relationship between long-term goals and teaching flexibly.