Size Matters

Pocket Quintilian

In 2003, I spent some time in the northern Chinese city of Harbin training current and prospective English teachers from provincial towns in the Heilongjiang region. At that time, I was still more or less in thrall to the communicative cult in foreign language teaching, and the language activities which I suggested to my trainees were very much of that ilk. But about ten days into my “course”, a brief conversation with one of these teachers brought me down to earth with a bang.

After I had introduced yet another gee-whiz communicative game, one of the more confident teachers piped up.

“Excuse me, this is good, but how do we do this in a class of eighty students?”

Eighty? 80? Yes. Toto, we’re not in sparsely-populated, largely middle-class, unionized Australia anymore.

After recovering from the shock, I reconsidered much of the material that I had intended to present to…

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