Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Monday, September 19, 2005

One Size Does Not Fit All

by AJ

Im finally starting to understand. Yeah, Im a bit dull-witted at times. What can I say.

Luckily I have a voracious apetite for interesting thinkers/writers such as Dennis Littky. Littky says we must get away from standard curriculum... no more teaching the exact same thing to all students.

Today, I finally got it. At the end of class I had one on one conferences with my students. We discussed their progress with English, their activities, etc. Then I asked what they needed or wanted from me.

The answers were incredibly varied. Some students crave more speaking. They want to grow more confident with speaking, especially to foreigners. Others felt listening comprehension was goal number one for them. A few students said that academic essay writing was their number one English goal.

Some preferred to watch movies and listen to music for oral input. Others preferred reading. Some preferred CNN and other news channels. Still others felt that voluneering with the foreign buddy program was best for them.

Some were most concerned with the details and form of the English language (grammar for essay writing). Others were most concerned with practical communication. Others were most concerned with a particular topic (alternative medicine, news, travel) and wanted better English in order to learn more about these topics.

As I listened to the wide variety of preferences I realized... there's no way I can "give" all of them what they want. I cannot create ONE curriculum that will satisfy all of them by adequetely covering: listening comprehension, oral communication, news-related English, alternative medicine related English, academic essay writing, etc........

One size does not fit all. Littky is right. Thats an extinct idea. We've got to have individualized curriculae. Every students' needs and interests are different. Instead of forcing them to study things of little use or interest to them.. we've got to find ways to help them meet THEIR goals (not ours).

Today I took my first baby step in that direction. Since the academic writing group was the smallest minority.. and the one most different from the others... I gave them each a few alternative assignments: Read one academic essay per day, and write one academic essay on their blog each week. I will use "comments" to assess and rewrite a section of their essay (in standard academic English).

For those craving speaking practice, perhaps Ill have them starting doing podcast presentations every week (audioblogs)!. The readers and listeners and pop culture folks already seem to be right on track.

Tiny steps.... but at least in the right direction.