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Humorous Anecdote--The Gouin Series 
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Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 2:29 am
Posts: 2
Post Humorous Anecdote--The Gouin Series
When I was in Korea, one of my methods for teaching
English was by (a) studying Korean; (b) seeing what
methods helped me learn Korean; then (c) using these
methods to help English-learners enhance their English
(or 'yong-oh', as we call it in Seoul).

I had 3 main tools for learning Korean: practice, practice,
and PRACTICE. Every day after work, I would go to a
coffee-shop (called the "Hello Kitty Cafe"--I kid you not! ^^),
and look for victims--er, people--to practice my nascent
Korean on.

One time, I met a Korean law student there, and we had
a great time swapping anecdotes.

I reduced my new friend to laughter by recounting an
episode from mid-19th century ESOL-pedagogy. Specifically,
I told my friend about Gouin's amusingly naive "Direct Method"
of English instruction.

The method? Well, he'd walk into his class, and describe,
in tearfully minute detail, what he was doing. Ex: "I walk
toward the door. I reach for the knob. I grab the knob.
I turn the knob. It turns and turns. I pull the door. It
opens. It turns on its hinges. I release the knob. I
walk through the door. Good-bye, class!" (I'm not sure
whether my friend was laughing at the sequence of
sentences--or whether it was my histrionic imitation of
Gouin opening a door in slow-motion. ^^)

My friend found this idea of "Gouin Series" most amusing.
He then tried it himself: "I pick up my cigarette box. I
open the box. I take a cigarette. I..."

I supplied the next step: "You put the cigarette to your
lips; or, you can say: I put the cigarette in my mouth."

"Okay. I put the cigarette in my mouth. I pick up the
lighter. I..."

I supplied the verb: "You flick the lighter. Or, you
can say: I light the lighter."

"I...flick....the lighter. I..."

"Light the cigarette," I supplied.

"Yes, I light the cigarette. I breathe the cigarette--"

"Inhale," I corrected, "or 'take a drag off.'"

"I take a drag off the cigarette. I, um, breathe out?"

"Exhale the smoke," I said, encouragingly.

"Yes, I exhale the smoke."

I found that I really enjoyed this cooperative activity--
my new friend did, too. If this had been a classroom,
I would have written up the verbs/phrases he'd gotten
stuck on, so that he could practice them at home. (Of
course, you probably shouldn't be lighting cigarettes in
class, so you might want to try a different "Gouin Series"
from the one described here. ^^)

While ESL pedagogues tend to treat Gouin's Direct Method
as quaint and passe, I nonetheless think that it could be
a non-monotonous way to enhance learners' English skills.
I discovered that a full description of even the simplest
everyday activities often requires quite a bit of useful

That's my 2 cents, anyway. ^^

Thu Jan 05, 2006 3:14 am
Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
WW68 thanks for that!

I used the same sort of practice for learning Japanese. Although people pay me to teach English I do tell them that you can do it yourself. You don't need me. :shock: However, it takes an incredible amount of will and discipline.

I was fortunate enough to be in Japan (or had the fortune to be in Japan,) so I had a constant practice field. I studied on my own and just talked to people as much as they would tollerate.

However, I did constantly ask myself, "Can I say this?" if no, "How do I say this?" and then look it up. I would make notes and check it with someone and then practice it. I burnt through several notebooks in a couple of years.

For me the key point in Gouin's method is the actual oral practice. You need to say it again and again, and then again tomorrow. As well as a couple times next week.

In the classroom I do apply this and often "talk to myself" or as I prefer to refer to it "audiate" my actions. ("Narrate" would do fine but hey why not make up a new word. :D ) I think it's good for the students especially children who are just like sponges and are taking everything in whether we think they are or not.

Maybe not so minute but along the same lines.

"We need some pencils. I'm going to go get some pencils. I'm walking. I'm marching. I'm skipping. I made it to my desk. I'm opening the drawer but I don't see the pencils. Oh, here they are. I've got the pencils! Woo-hoo! Who needs a pencil?"

- Mark

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Thu Jan 05, 2006 11:57 pm
Profile WWW

Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:36 am
Posts: 4
The way you describe the cigarette smoking sounds like an aerobics video for degenerates. :) That's a good story.

While ESL pedagogues tend to treat Gouin's Direct Method
as quaint and passe, I nonetheless think that it could be
a non-monotonous way to enhance learners' English skills.

The benefit of this method is that there is a lot of readily comprehensible input linked directly to your actions. I guess the problem is that, there are only so many routines you can do in the classroom without getting really inventive. And there is not much interaction or negotiation with students (when the teacher is doing the demonstrating).

But ,yeah sure. Why not? Another tool in the toolkit. Of course I wouldn't design a curriculum around it but I would --and have--used that kind of mini-lesson on occassion.

Sun Jan 08, 2006 9:53 am
For an up-to-date(ish) using this approach find a copy of:

Action English Pictures


Live Action English

Both by Alemany press (maybe merged). This is a very good supplement.

Sat May 27, 2006 11:13 am
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