Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, April 06, 2006


by AJ

During her presentation, Ms. Pollard commented that conferences were great for reminding you of great ideas you had forgotten.

Shes right. One such idea: student support groups. Pollard recommended creating small student support groups in each class. During class time, these groups meet to discuss their individual learning goals, their progress towards their goals, and the strategies theyve been using. For example, you might work with each student individually to develop concrete goals (ie. 200 new words per month). Students would write these goals down and keep them.. and the teacher would copy the student's individual plan and keep it.

Students then meet regularly with each other (weekly maybe) to brag about their successes, discuss challenges, encourage each other, share effective techniques, etc.

I used a version of this technique at TU and it worked great... I worked with students to develop individual learning plans.. but I didnt add the support group aspect. I think its a great addition, and plan to use it with all my future classes.

A last note about Pollard's presentation: She's an advocate of Effortless Teaching... or "wu wei".. though she doesnt use those exact words.

However, Pollard talked frequently about the advantage of developing "effective zero-prep routines". The support group is one such routine. As is the aforementioned "four corners" vocab flashcard quiz. These are very simple activities. They require virtually no preparation by the teacher. And yet, they work.

The movie technique is another such technique. I usually use movies Ive already seen. I dont prepare elaborate worksheets or other school-like BS. We just work our way through the movie scene by scene and create our study aids as we go (vocab wall, flashcards, notebooks, etc.). No prep for the teacher. No boring, contrived activities for the students. And it works great!

And since Im not wasting huge amounts of time/energy on generating worksheets... I have plenty of energy for what matters most: dynamic and effective classroom teaching.

San Francisco, CA