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Automatic English For The People

Friday, September 23, 2005


by AJ

I continue to contemplate the ideal role of in-class activities... (versus outside of class). Comprehensible (and interesting) input is my number one goal... I want to encourage students to find it and suck it up in massive quantities.

But given the schedule constraints at Thammasat (one or two classes a week, for a total of only three hours a week), this really cannot be accomplished much in-class. Most CI must come outside of class.. from fun books, from movies, from articles, from audiobooks, from podcasts, from conversations, from blogs, from emails......

And so Ive structured assignments to encourage this kind of reading and listening-- extra credit articles, book & film club presentations, blogs, projects, etc...

Which brings me back to the classroom. What should I do during my few hours in class with the students? I asked my students this question-- ie. "What is your number one goal for class?" and their overwhelming answer was "Confidence!"

These are intermediate+ students. They are capable of reading and listening outside of class. What they want in-class is a boost in confidence... especially in regards to speaking.

Ive mulled this point again and again and finally had an "aha" today. I remembered the most powerful confidence building class I have had in my education. It wasnt at a university. Nor High School. Nor any other traditional classroom.

Rather, it was the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking course. Over the length of that course, I got a HUGE boost in confidence. I remember my first speech-- I was terrified. My throat constricted. I couldnt look at the audience. Of course I wasnt alone... almost everyone was like that.

But by the end, we were all confident speakers... perhaps not brilliant, perhaps not perfect... but certainly confident.

Im of the firm belief that you should steal great approaches that work. So part of my in-class answer is to steal from the Dale Carnegie course. Next semester, I will require every student to give a 3 minute mini-speech to the class. Once a week, every week.

I will slowly ratchet up the challenge level. The first speech might be a 30 second self-introduction... performed while sitting at their seat. The second speech might be a 3 minute speech performed sitting down, talking to a circle of desks.

But gradually the students would progress to giving full 3 minute speeches while standing alone in front of the class..... with absolutely no notes and no memorization.

Like Dale Carnegie, my focus will be on confidence boosting. That means absolutely no criticism or critical remarks [And, of course, absolutely no correction of grammar for goddsake!!]. Only compliments and praise!!

Ill also help them improve their skills by teaching a few of the approaches I learned in the Carnegie course (how to structure a short speech).

So there it is... about half of my in-class strategy. Im still ruminating on what to do during the other half. Most likely this will be a mix of articles chosen by me, read and discussed..... book/film club (small group) presentation-discussions, one on one conferences, and a mix of unique and unexpected activities.

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