Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, June 13, 2005

Learning From Oprah

by Jim Trelease

If Oprah's audience is so reluctant, how did she motivate them?

Having selected a book, Oprah simply walks out to our audience of 22 million in 119 countries and talks about the book she's selected. She talks about the book, animatedly, passionately, and sincerely. No writing, no tests, no dumb dioramas to make, just good old-fashioned enthusiasm for something she's read. Further, she brings the author before the audience (which eliminates all those "dead authors" from consideration) and there's more talk.

Since her audience already trusts her, they buy in — to the tune of at least 500,000 copies for every book she mentions. Finally, she selects four letter-writers from the 10,000 viewers who apply and invites them to dinner with the her and the author, where they talk even more about the book.

What can we apply from this to our work with students? Well, let's eliminate not all but much of the writing they're required to do whenever they read. ("The more we read, we more we gotta write, so let's read less and we can work less, right?") We adults don't do it when we read, so why are we forcing students to do it? It hasn't created a nation of writers or readers.

Instead, let's schedule more time to talk animatedly about what we're reading, including some Socratic coaching from the teacher/Oprah-figure.