Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Emotion-- Priority Number One

by AJ

Ive gotten a tremendous amount of information from my class discussions this week, re: "The Ideal English Class".

Perhaps the most surprising thing to me was what they considered the number one goal of the class. It wasnt "grammar improvement",... nor "more vocabulary". It wasnt even "better fluency".

The number one goal.... what they most wanted out of the class.. was CONFIDENCE.

In other words, the most important goal for the students was an EMOTIONAL goal. They want a certain emotional experience... an emotional/attitude transformation regarding English.

Very, very, very interesting. This has big-time implications. And interestingly, these implications once again mirror the work of Krashen and other researchers. Krashen puts it this way, "The path of pleasure is the ONLY path". Skill building, grammar-analysis, drills, and most traditional methods are the path of delayed gratification (only after years of study will you be allowed to enjoy the language).... its a dead end path for over 90% of the students.

Pleasure... confidence... euphoria... These must not only be factored into class designs... they must be the most important factors. If your lesson doesnt include a plan for euphoria and confidence-building.. its a piss-poor lesson plan.

This is yet another reason that aesthetics matter and they matter alot! The paint scheme in the classroom is just as important as the syllabus. Likewise the choice of furniture, artwork, lighting, and decor.

We're still stuck in a factory mentality. We think emotions are "soft" or unimportant. But they are absolutely the most important aspect of a language class. I dont care how brilliant your method is... if it creates unpleasant emotions you will drive the majority of your students away from the language. They may get an "A" on the exam, but they'll also learn to loathe the language and view learning it as drudgery. With such feelings, how likely are they to continue with self-study (the only way they will truly become proficient)?

Isnt this already the case? Most students who take English classes get good grades. They do reasonably well on the exams. But once they finish the required classes, how many continue to learn on their own? How many go on to advanced elective classes? 10% ? 5% ? Thats a dreadful "success" rate.

For some reason, this truth seems difficult for many teachers to grasp. They cringe at the thought that emotion is the most important thing. Perhaps its because they dont feel much pleasure with the topic.. or teaching... themselves? Im not sure.

Maybe this comes easier to me... seems less radical... because of my social work background. In social work, emotional-attitudinal experience is recognized as hugely important. If a client is depressed, hopeless, bored, or dependent... it doesnt matter what "skills" you give them or what you do for them. You can secure a job for them, stabilize their medical problems, get them off drugs, etc.... but if their emotional health is not good... none of it will last.

The same holds for students. Start paying attention to the emotional experiences of your students. Pay ALOT of attention. Plan for it. Put it in your lesson plans.