Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, March 25, 2004

A Guide For Beginning Teachers

by AJ Hoge & Kristin Dodds

Jet-lagged and confused, I arrived at school early Monday morning- two days after landing in Korea. I was greeted by my Korean supervisor, who took my hand and led me to a small classroom. “This is your class”, she said and pointed to twelve wide-eyed kindergarten students. “Great!”, I said. The kids were adorable and I was enthusiastic. I had never taught before but I was excited about the adventure of living in Korea and teaching English. “So when do I start to actually teach?”, I asked. “Uh.... now. Class starts in five minutes.”, she said.

My smile disappeared. I began to panic. My eyes darted from child to child and my mind raced. “But, but... what do I do?”, I said. “No problem. You are a native speaker, just teach naturally”, was my supervisor’s response. She gave a quick nod and walked away. I turned back towards the children-- terrified.

Most untrained teachers are bewildered by the same questions I had at that moment: How, exactly, do you teach conversation “naturally”? Are there any organized techniques for teaching natural conversation, and if so, how do you learn them? All of this boils down to the most basic question of all: “What do I do?”

At that time, I had no idea. Like me, many new teachers are excited to live abroad. They imagine exotic locations, new food, interesting cultures, new friends, and great adventures. They are excited by moving to a new country. They are full of curiosity and enthusiasm, but like me, they have no idea how to do their job: teach “natural conversational English”. Most teachers get no help from administrators. Most administrators take the “sink or swim” approach I encountered in Korea. Many teachers sink, and become negative towards the country and the job.

Most program directors are surprised by the problems they have with teachers. New employees begin as positive, happy, cooperative people-- but in a few months they become angry, negative, and difficult. Problems between teachers and administrators grow more difficult every month. Teachers suffer. Administrators suffer. The students suffer.

This does not have to happen. With a bit of training, a little knowledge and a few resources, teachers do well. Over the past three decades, many techniques have been developed for teaching natural language. These techniques are well researched, easy to use, and popular with students. I call these approaches “effortless language approaches” because they require almost no effort from students, and are very easy for teachers to learn. These techniques have higher student satisfaction and retention rates than traditional methods.

Effortless language approaches are techniques for teaching conversational language. Effortless techniques completely eliminate the pattern drills, textbooks, dialogues, listen & repeat, and grammar-translation activities used in traditional classrooms.

Instead, these techniques use physical response, storytelling, relaxation methods, a silent period, and authentic materials to imitate natural language learning. These techniques are perfect for the program whose mission is to teach “natural language”.

Physical Response

The first important trait of effortless techniques is an emphasis on physical response. Dr. James Asher, of San Jose State University, is the pioneer of this technique, which he calls “Total Physical Response”(TPR). TPR helps students quickly and effortlessly acquire large chunks of language. Dr. Asher gives the following example, “Think of a small child’s first ‘conversation’ with a parent. For example, the parent is saying “Look at daddy. Look at daddy”. The infant’s face turns in the direction of the voice and daddy exclaims, “She’s looking at me! She’s looking at me!” We call this a “language-body conversation” because the parent speaks and the infant answers with a physical response such as looking, smiling, laughing, turning, walking, reaching, holding, sitting, and so forth. These “conversations” continue for many many months before a child utters anything more intelligible than “mommy” or “daddy”. Once the child has learned enough of the language, speaking appears spontaneously.”

TPR techniques imitate this early form of communication. Teachers start new students with extremely simple, one word commands such as “sit”, “stand”, “go”. The teacher first models the expected response, then directs students to follow- first as a group, then individually. Students progress much faster than infants, so the complexity of commands increases rapidly. At the end of a four month TPR program, basic level students will respond quickly to commands such as, “When I lift my left hand, pick up the red book, take it to the back of the room, put it under the desk in the left corner, wait five seconds, turn around twice and return to your seat”.

According to an extensive research, the power of TPR is in combining physical actions with verbal language. Like riding a bicycle, students who acquire vocabulary through TPR remember it for a long time. Studies show that TPR students remember vocabulary for a much longer time than students in traditional programs. “TPR is a tool that enables students to internalize (and remember) a huge volume of the target language with high-speed”, notes Dr. Asher, “it is superior to translation. Translation does not help most students because there is no long-term understanding. When students translate, there is short-term comprehension which is erased the moment the student leaves the classroom, if not sooner.”

One key to using TPR successfully is to never use it alone. TPR is a very powerful technique, but it is most effective when followed by games, songs, stories, or demonstrations.

Of course, students must eventually move beyond commands in order to master more complex language. TPR Storytelling (TPRS), developed by Blaine Ray, a language teacher in the California public school system, addresses this need. Like TPR, TPRSuses physical involvement. Teachers tell short stories to students, who act out the events as they are told. As the teacher tells the story, he directs students to play characters... and demonstrates the appropriate actions. The teacher also uses questions, drawings and props to help students understand the language. No translations are used. After a short time, students take the place of the teacher and tell their own stories.

Ray explains the advantages of using stories to teach language, “Stories are interesting- so interesting that students want to listen and understand just to know what is going on.... [and] since students care a lot about their own lives, we continually tell stories about them. Also, a story allows for the full range of language structures and vocabulary choice. A story may be told in any tense and from various points of view.”

Another approach to storytelling is used at the AUA Language School in Bangkok, Thailand. David Long, Director of AUA’s Thai Department, prefers the term “happening” to “story”, A “happening” is a natural and meaningful language experience. It could be a story or a demonstration. Andrew Cohen, a student at AUA, explains, “A typical ‘language lesson’ at AUA might be making a Thai dessert or learning to cut hair. We aren’t memorizing artificial sentences or dialogues. AUA involves you in experiential learning, so the language you get is meaningful and memorable. The teacher gives an interesting demonstration and narrates what they are doing. They point out the important actions, give directions, ask questions, and answer questions from the class. The focus is always on meaning, not on memorizing rules.”

In this situation, the language is learned unconsciously-- which is exactly what happens with small children. “The ideal class”, according to David Long,, “is one in which the student is so interested and absorbed in what’s going on that they completely forget that the class is being conducted in another language.”


Researchers agree that anxiety and stress prevent students from learning a language quickly. Dr. Stephen Krashen notes that anxiety acts as a filter- it blocks language input. Anxious students are distracted, tense, and timid. They are scared of making mistakes and are scared of participation. Many traditional techniques increase student anxiety. Calling on students individually or correcting errors directly does more harm than good.

A technique called Suggestopedia was developed by Dr. Georgi Lazanov to address the problem of anxiety. Suggestopedia uses art, music, and lighting to create a relaxing and interesting classroom environment. Teachers play soothing classical music (at a low volume) during the class. They decorate their rooms with colorful artwork. They paint their walls with bright colors and use soft lighting instead of flourescent lights. Classes usually begin with a brief relaxation exercise. For example, the teacher might dim the lights, play classical music, and read a mini-story while students close their eyes and relax.

Soothing music, pleasant lighting, and colorful artwork relaxes students. In this relaxed state, they learn and remember language more easily. Relaxed students also enjoy class more and are more likely to return. It is important for teachers and administrators to pay careful atttention to creating a relaxing and visually interesting environment.

Listen First and The Silent Period

Perhaps the biggest difference between traditional programs and effortless programs is the “silent period”. “The silent period” refers to the first year of a baby’s life, when it is listening, understanding, and physically responding to language, but is not speaking. All effortless language programs use a silent period, which varies from a 10 hours in some programs to hundreds in others. More important than a specific number of hours is the idea of letting students speak when they feel comfortable. Dr. Ashley Hastings, a leading developer of Intensive English Programs in the United States, says a “listen first” approach is best, “We do not require students to perform when they are not ready and willing to do so. Speaking is always voluntary; hence, it is genuine speaking, in contrast to the embarrassed, strained output that passes for speaking in some methods. We never make our students feel awkward or self-conscious by putting them on the spot.”

During the silent period, students listen and respond to teachers, but they do not need to speak the target language. The mystery, according to AUA’s Long, is that practising speech does not necessarily improve speaking, “All of the evidence we have gathered during the past several decades shows that those students who remain silent, refusing to ‘force speaking’, excel, whereas those students who force it set limits on their ability to learn and use the language.” Long speaks from experience, as he was one of AUA’s first students. He is now fluent in Thai and loves the technique.

AUA’s very long silent period is unique-- but not practical for most programs. However, a listen first approach is excellent advice for most programs. My worst mistake in Korea was trying to force students to speak. This made them very nervous and increased their shyness. It is much better to let students speak when they are ready and willing. For small children this is not a problem! Older children, teens, and adults, however, are are often terrified of making a mistake. By using a listen first approach, you ease their anxiety and let them speak when they feel comfortable. Eventually they will relax. The important thing to remember is: if they are comprehending- they are learning.

Authentic Materials

The emphasis on “real-life” includes the materials used in effortless language approaches. These techniques do not use the textbooks, dictionaries, and workbooks used in most schools, instead they use “authentic materials”. Dr. Hastings explains that, “We do not use exercises, drills, or any kind of artificial task that has no purpose other than language practice. What do we mean by ‘authentic materials’? We mean materials that were created for the use and enjoyment of people who are not studying a foreign language. A movie such as Shakespeare in Love is authentic. A newspaper such as USA Today is authentic.”

Dr. Hastings likes to use movies, and has developed a technique called the “Focal Skills Movie Technique”. “It uses authentic movies to bring a huge variety of meaning into the class. By narrating at the appropriate level of complexity, the teacher creates a rich stream of language that is directly related to what the students are seeing and hearing.” The Focal Skills Movie Technique is now used in Intensive English Programs at both the University of Wisconsin and the University of Dallas. It works as follows:

Teachers show a videotape of a popular movie. It is shown scene by scene. First the teacher plays the scene at normal speed. Next, he rewinds and plays it again. This time the volume is turned down while the teacher narrates the action, using language that is at the students’ level. For low level students, the teacher might only point to objects and actions on the screen and and say the word(s) for them. At advanced levels, the teacher might talk about plot elements, foreshadowing, motives, and cinematic techniques. Whatever the level, the instructor pauses each scene often to point things out, paraphrase what is going on, ask questions, and let students respond. The scene is then rewound and played a third time at normal speed. Using this technique, a typical movie takes about ten hours to watch.

Both universities are getting excellent results with the Movie Technique. Research shows that students in Focal Skills classes learn English faster than students in traditional Intensive English Programs, as measured by improvements on TOEFL scores. Dr. Hastings says that “a number of studies have found that Focal Skills students gain about 35% more English ability in a semester than other English students.” The movie technique is a great technique for teachers. It is easy to use and is adaptable to any age or skill level. Cartoons and children’s movies are useful for young learners, while adult students will enjoy a variety of action films, romances, dramas, and comedies.

The keys to using the technique successfully are: a) choose movies with clear action and simple plots (advanced students may be able to handle more complex themes), b) Narrate every scene at the students’ level. Pause often, rewind, and point to what you are talking about, c) Keep the scenes short, no more than ninety seconds per scene, d) Ask questions and respond to questions. Involve the students.

Of course, movies are not the only authentic material. Children’s books and comic books are also excellent tools for teaching beginning readers, whatever their age. These materials are more interesting than textbooks and are very easy to find. I have used Dr. Suess books with adults of all ages and they love them! At higher levels, comic books, teen romances, and newspapers all provide natural reading material that is very interesting. Teachers can also use a version of the movie technique with comic books and picture books by asking questions and talking about the pictures.

A Little Goes A Long Way

How do you get started with an Effortless Language program? First, investigate the resources and links in this article. Read the information on the websites to get an idea of what is available. Next, invest a little money. I recommend the books Learning Another Language Through Action by James Asher, TPR In the First Year by Francis Cabello, and Fluency Through TPR Storytelling by Blaine Ray, to start. These books teach the basic steps in the techniques. Also consider the Look I Can Talk Series by Blaine Ray (for adults) or the TPR Storytelling for English Series (for kids) by Todd McKay if your school does not have a full curriculum. Be honest about your curriculum. A monthly theme and a few coloring books is not a curriculum. If you have the money, there are many more books available on the websites.

In addition to these books, collect authentic materials. Useful items include movies on tape or DVD, newspaper subscriptions (such as USA Today), Children’s books, comic books, children and teen romance books, the Goosebumps books, hobby books, props, and souvenirs. I once used baseball cards as props for a class on the Major League playoffs. The class was a huge success and lasted an entire week.

Overwhelmed teachers are no fun. They are drained by the demands of teaching. They are too tired and too angry to enjoy their new country. These teachers burnout and cause a lot of trouble for administrators. They break their contracts. They argue and complain. They are negative and unhappy. For many examples, read the teachers’ forums on Dave’s ESL Cafe (www.daveseslcafe.com). These are filled with miserable teachers who hate their jobs and hate the countries they live in.

On the other hand, a trained, knowledgeable, and happy teacher makes everyone happy. When teaching is fun and effective, teachers enjoy their jobs and their new country. They are more positive. The are more helpful. They make the administrator’s job easier.

A little training, a little preparation and a few resources will help everyone: teachers, administrators, and students.

Benefits of Effortless Language Programs

* Students learn vocabulary & grammar faster and remember it longer.
* Average TOEFL score improvements are 35% higher than with traditional programs.
* Higher student retention. Students like the techniques more and stay in the program longer.
* Lower stress and anxiety.
* More fun and interesting.
* Easy (for teachers) to learn the techniques.
* More effective than traditional programs and less work for students.
* Inexpensive: No expensive textbooks, workbooks, or tapes.
* Supported by academic research (peer-reviewed, non-commercial).

Recommended Resources:

Learning Another Language Through Actions
by James Asher
This classic book explains TPR techniques in detail. Includes over one hundred TPR lessons.

Instructor’s Notebook: How To Apply TPR For Best Results
by Ramiro Garcia
Another excellent book on the nuts and bolts of using TPR in the classroom.

TPR In The First Year
by Francis Cabello
A collection of lesson plans. An excellent resource that saves a lot of time.

Fluency Through TPR Storytelling
by Blaine Ray & Contee Seely
The best teachers’ guide to using TPR Storytelling. Explains, step by step, how to use TPR Storytelling to teach natural conversational language.

The Look I Can Talk Series:
by Blaine Ray
The Look I Can Talk books provide a complete curriculum of TPRS stories and mini-stories for High School and adult age students. These are an excellent resource for teachers who do not have the time or inclination to develop their own stories. These books do NOT teach the TPRS technique itself, so Fluency Through TPR Storytelling is necessary is also necessary.

Look I Can Talk! (Level One)
& Mini-Stories for Look I Can Talk

Look I Can Talk More (Level Two)
& Mini-Stories for Look I Can Talk More

Look I’m Still Talking! (Level Three)
& Mini-stories for Look I’m Still Talking

TPR Storytelling for English Series:
by Todd McKay
This is a TPRS curriculum similar to Look I Can Talk, but for elementary and middle-school children.

Teacher’s Guidebook
Student Book Year 1
Student Book Year 2
Student Book Year 3

Teaching English Through Actions
by Berty Segal
A TPR lesson plan book for use with kindergarten.


Includes articles on TPR and an extensive catalogue of TPR books and games.

TPR Storytelling:
Order TPR Storytelling materials on Blaine Ray’s web site, or on the TPR-World web site.

AUA’s Automatic Language Growth:
Good explanation of the silent period and language acquisition theory.

Focal Skills Techniques:
Contains information about the Focal Skills Movie Technique and the use of authentic materials

Amazon ships internationally. All of the books recommended in this article can be found at Amazon.

SD Krashen
Krashen is the leading expert on natural language acquisition research and theory. This site gives good background information, but does not provide detailed information about specific teaching techniques.

Dave’s ESL Cafe
Tons of information for TESOL: jobs, forums, lesson plans, ect. Read the teachers’ forums to see just how miserable life can be when unprepared and overworked!

Sunday, March 21, 2004

By Dr. J. Marvin Brown

It is common knowledge that when people move to a new country the children will end up speaking the language natively and the adults won't. The widely accepted explanation is that children have a special 'gift' that they lose as they grow up. Even with the coming of the age of science this 'gift' theory went unquestioned, and early linguists thought some special remedy was needed. They proposed that, for adults, languages should be taught and studied instead of picked up. And this idea slowly evolved into present day language teaching.

But are we any better off with present day language teaching? Why, for example, do adults in Central Africa clearly do better when they move to a new language community than our modern students do? Could it be that early linguists (and all the rest of us) were mistaken? Maybe adults can do what children do. Maybe it's just typical adult behavior (not adult inadequacy) that interferes.

THE MISTAKE – Children can do something that adults cannot.

THE UNASKED QUESTION – What would happen if an adult were to just listen for a year without speaking?

OUR ANSWER – Both adults and children can do it right, but only adults can do it wrong.

It seems that the difference between adults and children is not that adults have lost the ability to do it right, (that is, to pick up languages natively by listening) but that children haven't yet gained the ability to do it wrong (that is, to spoil it all with contrived speaking). We're suggesting that it's this contrived speaking (consciously thinking up one's sentences – whether it be with translations, rules, substitutions, expansions, or any other kind of thinking,) that damages adults, even when the sentences come out right). We're also suggesting that natural speaking (speaking that comes by itself) won't cause damage (not even when it's wrong). It seems that the harm doesn't come from being wrong but from thinking things up.

What we're suggesting is this: The reason that children always end up as native speakers is because they learn to speak by listening. And the reason that adults don't is because they learn to speak by speaking.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

An Invitation to Suggestopedia
by Kazuhiko Hagiwara Griffith University

If you are a language teacher interested in Suggestopedia, you may wish to try this approach but at the same time you may be wondering whether and how you can use it. What are the essential elements of Suggestopedia? What do suggestopedic teachers really do? What are the requirements to become a suggestopedic teacher? Drawing on my experiences as a teacher trainee in Bulgaria and my work in applying this approach to my Japanese course in Australia. I will give you some ideas on how to get started with Suggestopedia. Before discussing some of the important theoretical concepts of Suggestopedia. I invite you to observe four scenes from an ideal intensive Japanese course taught with Suggestopedia.

Scene 1: First Day Introduction

In the morning, twelve students were waiting in the classroom for their teacher. They had never studied Japanese before and this first lesson was also the first time for them to meet each other. They felt a little excited and tense as they waited for the lesson to begin. They had some expectations about what would happen because they had already received information on how the method would work. The best possible environment that the teacher could prepare had been created in the classroom --a quiet room of an appropriate size full of light and fresh air with Japanese art and tourism posters on the wall, plants in the corners, and chairs arranged in a semi-circle.

"Ohayo gozaimasu !" The teacher came in with a big bag. He started saying something in Japanese as if he naturally believed that the students would understand him. As he talked, he started to show the students the things he had in his big bag. First, he pulled out a puppet which he introduced as "Kintaro," one of his good friends. The teacher kept talking as one thing after another came out of his big travel bag, things he called, kamera, pen, pasupooto, booru, wain, biiru, and so on. The students began to relax as they found they could understand what the teacher was saying. Besides, he looked so cheerful and happy that the students began to feel the same way. He seemed to be saying "What's this? This is a camera. Oh, it's an Olympus. It's a nice one'. I'll take your picture. Smile! Um...excuse me, sir, would you take a picture of my friend and me, please? Thank you." "Hey, look, this is my passport. Who is this? It's me. Oh, how strange I look in this picture. It's embarrassing!" "What's this? Oh. it's a bottle of wine. It's a nice wine. I like it but I don't drink too much. It's awful having a hangover."

The students could clearly guess what the teacher was trying to say from the gestures and facial expressions he was making and from the real things with familiar names he was showing them. Some unusual things also came out of his bag -- a real telephone receiver set with which he called home and reported that he had finally arrived in Australia; a real stone and a rubber sponge that looked like a real stone, but he said. "lie, chigaimasu," (No, it isn't); a miniature dinosaur which he introduced as another one of his friends; and so on. The students were getting an initial idea of Japanese grammatical structures as well as of the names of things. The teacher sometimes asked the students what the things were but he didn't seem to expect that they would reply. When he asked questions, he looked vaguely around the classroom, never pointing to a particular student. However, some students spontaneously began to guess the names of things, saying "Telephone desu." Then the teacher took that word and said in Japanese. "Close! You've just missed. DENWA desu. Yes, kore wa denwa desu. But wait. Oh, you speak Japanese! How nice! That's excellent Ii desu ne! By the way, everyone, do you know what ii desu ne is? Guess, guess. What is it? 'Good' in English? Yes, that's right! Iidesune. Let me hear you say iidesune, OK? Now, all together, one, two, three, IIDESUNE!"

While talking to his students, the teacher frequently encouraged them with short phrases such as Daijobu desu yo (that's all right, don't worry). Wakarimasu ne (now you understand), Dekimasu yo (yes, you can). Hora, dekimashita, ne (see, you did it). and Kantan desho (easy, isn't it?). Phrases with a negative meeting were carefully omitted from his speech. For example, he seemed to avoid adjectives such as muzukashii (difficult) or taihen (fatiguing) to describe his course or its content. English was not strictly prohibited in the classroom, and students could ask the teacher or their classmates questions in English. The teacher, on the other hand, tried to answer in Japanese or with gestures as much as possible, although he, too, did not seem to prohibit himself from using English when it was necessary. He used English to correct misunderstandings or to briefly explain important grammar points. However, when he explained in English, he spoke softly to imply that it was a special service to the students. Although the students were free to use English, they began to try to speak Japanese because the world of Japanese language that the teacher was involving them in seemed very interesting and enjoyable.

Finally, the teacher took a set of cards out of his big bag and said in Japanese, "I have some important documents here. Look. What are these? They are hiragana." The Japanese phonetic characters were written separately on each card. The teacher turned his back to the students and started reading the cards one after another as if he were reading a secret report. However, the students could see the cards over his shoulders. After he read the five cards of a, i, u, e, o three times, he silently showed them to the students. When the students started reading them, he turned to them with a look of surprise and said in Japanese. "What? You can read hiragana already! What a surprise! You can do everything. OK, let's read them together." He showed ka and then ki. Some students guessed that the next one was ku and that it was followed by ke and ko. The teacher joined them and invited the others to read together. After the teacher finished introducing all the hiragana, the telephone suddenly rang. Someone in Japan was calling him. "Moshi, moshi." (hello); the teacher started to talk to someone on the phone. He seemed to be talking about making a film and he sounded very happy to report that he had found a group of good actors who could speak and read Japanese.

After the teacher hung up, he had his students choose Japanese namae (names) and shigoto (jobs). He showed them a large poster on which were written Japanese names and occupations both in hiragana and the alphabet with their English translations. He read all of the names and jobs, inviting the students to follow him. Students could choose any name and occupation they liked from the poster or select others by asking their teacher in English. Some students used Japanese interrogative structures, asking "Fire fighter wa nan desu ka?" (what is fire fighter?). The teacher cheerfully replied, "Shoboshi desu." and added it to the list. During the class, the teacher always seemed to be very careful not to scare anyone or to insult anyone. Without expecting anyone to speak or read Japanese correctly at this stage, he just tried to wait for the right answer to come out somewhere in the class as if he considered the whole class as one brain. When the answer appeared, the teacher's face was full of happiness, and he praised all the students. Because students were free to take what they were given, some sort of specialities emerged in the class, which meant that each student could work from his or her strong points. Indeed, each student seemed to have a different vocabulary, depending on his or her interest. One student would surprise the others with a vocabulary item, and then another would do the same the next moment, and this process seemed to be a good stimulation for the group. The teacher used a great deal of energy to create good human relations in the class so that students would help and praise one another.

Scene 2: The Concert Sessions

After a short break, the students returned to their seats and then, the teacher entered the classroom calmly and quietly. This time, his manner seemed quite different than when he had come in to do the introduction. It was somehow more prestigious and solemn. He gave each student a copy of the textbook, a long play consisting of several acts. He told the students in Japanese that he was going to read the first act in the textbook twice with classical music in the background. During the first reading; students would hear and follow the text in Japanese while referring to the English translation on the right side of the page. The first chapter was written both in Japanese and romanized characters so that beginners could read it.

The first reading started with the cheerful sounds of the Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto. Before beginning to read, the teacher stood quietly, allowing the students to listen to the music until the opening musical passage ended. The teacher read slower than normal speed, but the reading itself was dynamic. His voice was very different from the one he used in normal speech. It sounded more like the voice of a poet at his recital or that of an Italian opera singer. He mobilized all the variations his voice could produce, although his voice could be clearly heard even when he spoke in a whisper. He seemed to use his voice in harmony with the music rather than with the intonation and meaning of the language. However, he emphasized certain underlined words or phrases with pauses and stress to mark their importance. Reading 15 pages of the text took approximately 20 minutes.

Before beginning the second reading, the teacher suggested that the students not look at the text but try to imagine what was happening in the story. He told them to feel free to listen either to the music or his voice or both. The music began. This time it was an organ piece from J. S. Bach's Fantasia for Organ in G Minor BMV 572. The teacher, with his eyes closed, was sitting calmly on the chair. When the introduction to the piece finished, he started the second reading. His voice was a clear as during the first reading, but this time he read with natural intonation and speed. This reading lasted approximately 12 minutes. When he finished the reading. the teacher quietly left the room. While some students slowly opened their eyes to prepare to go home, others continued to listen to the music.

Scene 3: The Elaboration

Most of the lessons in the intensive course were spent on elaboration. Every elaboration class was full of a variety of teaching techniques and activities, and these were used in an integrated fashion rather than separately. In other words, the teacher seemed to try to maintain and review all the things that had been learned in previous activities, often by placing reminders somewhere in the classroom. For example, the day after the teacher had given students a drawing task to symbolize some abstract words or phrases, the students found their "masterpieces" on the wall with the real art posters. That day, the teacher used those expressions many times, but the students could easily comprehend or even use them just by glancing at their own pictures. These pictures were removed a few days later, but some students could recall the expressions just by looking at that section of the room.

Many different types of reminders of class activities occupied various spaces in the classroom. A verb conjugation list on an easel was next to a large plant. A colorful noun list was on the back wall between two art posters. A 3D map of a town with miniature shops and their goods lay on the right back corner table. Items from the teacher's big bag were placed on the rug in the center of the floor. A Japanese restaurant menu with some plastic replicas of Japanese food were on the left side table. Portraits of a Japanese family with their names were hung on the left side wall. Every item reminded students of something important they had done or learned in the previous class activities.

Students' roles were naturally decided in the class. One student was always respectfully invited to conduct the other students in singing as he had chosen conductor as his occupation. Another student was asked for advice when anyone felt sick or tired because he had chosen to be a doctor. In the group, there were a haiku poet, a sushi master, a bank clerk, a sumo wrestler, a judoka, a retired merchant, and so on. Some had clear roles to play in class activities and others did not. However, the teacher provided all of the students with tasks in which they were respected or praised by others in some way.

As part of the elaboration, the students read the textbook play together with the teacher. The students would volunteer for the various roles, and the teacher encouraged them to read dramatically. Each role in the text had its own props such as black eye glass frames for the "father" and a pink scarf for the "mother." The teacher made sure that all students had an opportunity to read part of the story. When the students mispronounced words, the teacher corrected them in a soft whisper, allowing them to correct themselves or not as they wished. Sometimes the textbook reading was followed by a role play in which students were provided with costumes and wigs to make the drama more realistic.

Scene 4: Summary

At the end of each chapter, the students read and translated a story which reviewed all the major grammar and vocabulary items in the lesson. Before having the students read this story, the teacher would introduce it with illustrations and props. Then students would be invited to create their own stories around a theme or a prop, and class the next day would begin with these stories.

The Role of the Teacher in Suggestopedia

As can be seen from the scenes above, the role of the teacher, the "motor of the suggestopedic machine," is crucial (Gateva, 1990b. p. 91) because a large part of a suggestopedic course depends on the suggestive effect of the teacher's behavior, both verbal and non-verbal. A teacher in a suggestopedic course not only radiates effective suggestive stimuli, but also coordinates environmental suggestive stimuli in a positive way for students to learn.

One of Suggestopedia's unique goals is to release learners' minds from the existing framework of the "social-suggestive norms" (Lozanov, 1978. p. 252). Learners have commonly set a limit on their abilities by following the guidelines of the suggestive norms which are often considered common sense in a given society. For instance, students may say, "Oh, it's too late for me, I am too old," or "How can I remember that amount? Nobody can!" Suggestopedia sees these negative suggestions from the social-suggestive norms as inhibiting human potential and believes you can free your students' natural potential by replacing existing negative suggestions with positive suggestions. This is called the "desuggestive-suggestive process" (Lozanov, 1978, pp. 252-258). Teachers have quite a few "common sense" beliefs to remove such negative beliefs as "Study is hard," "You can only remember little by little," "Grammar is boring," and so on. Then, 'Yes, you can," "Everything is possible," and "Study is fun" will be the new common sense in your classes.

Creating a State of Concentrative Psychorelaxation

One important task for a suggestopedic teacher is to put students in the state of mind called "concentrative psychorelaxation" (Lozanov, 1978, p. 2S8). Lozanov describes concentrative psychorelaxation as the optimal state of brain activity for learning in which the level of relaxation is neither too deep nor too shallow. The teacher needs to create and arrange different styles of activities to stimulate the students' minds in various ways so that each student has a chance to achieve this state of concentrative psychorelaxation.

Teachers can use all the interactive communicative activities in Suggestopedia, especially in the elaboration part of the lesson. Techniques such as role plays, games, and quizzes are all effective. Work on grammar such as verb conjugations is introduced with some physical movement and change of voice and through colorful posters of conjugation tables which are placed around the classroom so that you can use learners' subconscious area of memory called "peripheral perceptions" (Lozanov, 1982, pp.149-150). All these activities are connected and harmonized in the course structure just as music that has several movements and motifs is performed with many different instruments orchestrated into one large symphony.

The Suggestopedic Lesson

The suggestopedic lesson is divided into four parts: introduction, concert sessions (active and passive), elaboration (development of the syllabus introduced in the concert sessions), and summary (Gateva, 1990b, pp. 94-95). Each part requires different skills on the part of the teacher, but, throughout the course, you as a suggestopedic teacher appear to be the director of a group of actors rather than a lecturer (Fujiwara, 1992, p. 283). Students choose new names and personal backgrounds in the course so that they can be released from their real life problems or status that, Lozanov believes, often work as factors against learning (Hagiwara, 1989). After your learners have chosen their new personalities, you will need to pay attention to group dynamics to create and retain good human relationships, as demonstrated in the above description of the Japanese course.

Art in Suggestopedia

Suggestopedia introduces rich artistic elements into its teaching methodology and materials to stimulate learners' creativity (Gateva 1990a, pp. 54-55). Almost all the categories of art are included such as music, visual arts, and stage art. You use music as songs in the elaborations and as classical background music in the concert sessions. You hang colorfully made grammar posters among other art posters in your classroom, and sometimes you give the group drawing tasks. You move like an actor in the theater, use puppets like a show person, and read the textbook like a poet at his recital.

Concert Sessions

Another unique and essential feature of Suggestopedia is the concert sessions which helps students absorb the large amounts of information. You read the textbook solemnly and dramatically with specially selected classical background music. The list of specially selected classical music for suggestopedic concert readings is in Lozanov and Gateva (1987, pp, 73-77). In the concert sessions, the learners (listeners) are in a "pseudopassive state" (Lozanov, 1978, pp. 197-200); that is, they are physically relaxed and mentally activated. Listening to your voice in this state, as they follow the text and translation, learners absorb both the linguistic rhythm and meaning of vocabulary at once to create an accumulation of information in their minds.

Theory of Suggestopedia

When you apply your own ideas to your classroom, you must base them on the theory of Suggestology, which studies how the stimuli around us work as means of suggestion. Since there is no Suggestopedia without Suggestology, you should read at least the fundamental works of Lozanov and Gateva. I suggest you start with Lozanov (1982), a good summary of Suggestology and Suggestopedia, and Lozanov & Gateva (1988), a suggestopedic teachers' manual. If you have further interest, introductory books (Springer & Deutsch, 1985; Genesee, 1988) about brain physiology and cognitive science will give a better understanding of the utilization of whole brain learning in Suggestopedia.

Learning More about Suggestopedia

Finally, if you have time (and money), I recommend that you try to learn a language in a suggestopedic course, not only to observe a class session or two, but to take a whole course. In Japan. Sanno Junior College offers language and art courses taught suggestopedically and short teacher training seminars given in Japanese. Those who want to study Suggestopedia in depth can take training courses with Dr. Lozanov and Dr. Gateva at their center in Austria.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Silent Does Not Mean Passive
From Taeko Tomioka

It is often proposed by some teachers that listening comprehension is so important that it is useful to let students watch TV programs. This activity may be useful to motivate students to learn English, but is not enough by itself. Firstly, if the input is far above the students’ comprehension, it will be very painful, frustrating, and of little use for the students. Secondly, there is no active response on the part of the students. The language acquiring process is always an interaction of stimulus-response on both sides.

Children acquiring a language in natural settings are not passive at al. Even in a silent period there is no such thing as one-way communication. Children always respond to verbal stimuli in some way. Through such interactions children rapidly internalize a language. The most important points for teachers are to make the input comprehensible for their students and also to choose the optimum mode of non-verbal response according to the learning styles of the students.