Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Artificial vs. Authentic

by AJ

A lot of the issues raised by my students.. and Bee's.. revolve around the issue of authenticity. Students are fed up with boring, artificial, coerced methods. And who can blame them.

Its not only textbooks that are artificial. Role plays are too. So are vocabulary notebooks. So too is sitting in a butt-ugly building, in cramped desks arranged in rows, and doing "exercises".

There's no getting around it... we've got to blow the walls off of schools. Im realizing something... once you commit to excellence (as opposed to "good").. you've got to go all the way. Its an all or nothing, damn the torpedoes, leap of faith, subvert the bureaucracy, revolutionary insurgency (yipee!!).

An example: Today I had my "English for Economists" class design their "ideal class". Here's what they suggested for the central classroom activity: Parties!

At first I thought, "they are crazy". But then it clicked. Of course. What they want is authentic communication. Chatting at a party is authentic... its REAL communication. We do this all the time in our native languages... spend hours chatting while eating, drinking, lounging. But as soon as you enter a language class the "no fun" sign goes on. "No food", "No drink", "Repeat after me", "Do this role play", "Open your books to page 8". B-b-b-boring!

So when I say "blow the walls off of schools" Im serious. Bring in native speakers as guests/friends. Create real social opportunities for students.. in English. Trash the hideous desks. Bring food. Drink. Kick your feet up.

Its another reason Im intrigued by the book/film club idea. Read cool stuff you choose yourself, watch interesting movies you choose yourself,..... then relax with friends and talk about it. Of course this worked great! Its real. Its authentic. Its something we do all the time in our native languages.

So what is the teacher's role in all of this?

One: Win students over to the joy and power of reading and listening.... do this through enthusiasm, passion, knowledge.. not coercion.

Two: Design fun and interesting "games". Im starting to think of myself as a game designer..... I create intriguing project parameters and then convince the students to play them. See the BAS project as an example. Also the book presentations. Also the blogs [all three quite popular with my students and also quite affective].

Three: Coach and Consultant. All my classes have stated that a key role for the teacher should be one to one contact with students. They suggested that the teacher could schedule meetings after class and during class... to discuss learning strategies and progress, to encourage and inspire, to answer questions, to guide, to teach autonomous learning approaches...

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