Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Repetition & Authenticity

by AJ

My class continues to work through "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". Here's our basic routine: First I read the text aloud to the class... usually one chapter per day. As I do, the students circle any words they dont understand... but feel they need. After my reading, I go back and let them ask questions, paragraph by paragraph.. to ensure they "get it".

Next, I play the audiobook. Usually I start a few chapters before the one we just read... and continue a bit past it. After listening, I ask each student, "About what percentage of the narration did you understand?".

Next, we read the chapter again.... this time I read a sentence.. then they read it aloud after me. I ask them to imitate my intonation. I try to read "dramatically".. to convey the emotion of the story.. and ask the students to mimic my pauses, rises, falls, and general rhythm.

Once finished with the chapter, we listen to the audiobook again. Mr. Dahl speaks quite quickly on the tape.. so this is good practice for them.

In the beginning... when we started this book... most students reported comprehension levels of 0-30%. Now, into our second week, most report 35-99% comprehension. Of course, they understand the earlier passages more, because theyve had more repetition of those sections.

Now... all this is good news from a language acquisition perspective. They are improving their listening comprehension, they are acquiring new vocabulary... and their intonation is even improving.

But here's the best news: Many are crossing into the "I kick ass" zone. How to explain it? When we started the book, they were ALL intimidated. The first listening session with the audiobook scared them... and all were convinced they just couldnt do it. Now, several report 90-100% comprehension of the beginning chapters. They are kicking ass.. doing what they thought (just one week ago) was impossible.

Not all students are there yet.. but as they see some "kick ass".. they become more confident that they can do it to. Also, every student (with only one exception) is reporting steady improvements in comprehension.

This is no surprise, of course. Our reading and discussion sessions make the book comprehensible. Repetition likewise boosts the comprehensibility of the story. Pretty obvious and logical.

But imagine what it means-- by the end of the month.. these students will have MASTERED an authentic text... a fairly difficult one, in fact. Theyll have mastered it both as a written text.. and as an audio performance. Thats a lot of vocabulary, a lot of grammar, a lot of play with intonation.

But the "I kick ass" feeling may be the best benefit of all.... mastering "the impossible" instills a sense of confidence like nothing else. In terms of longterm language learning... that confidence might be the most important benefit of all.

San Francisco, CA