Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, October 20, 2005


by AJ

I want to take the custom education approach as far as I can. While Ill continue to develop basic principles, Ive decided to have no pre-set courses.

Rather, I will custom design courses for 1-4 students at a time, based on their unique interests and desires.

How might this work? The first step will be an assessment... an assessment designed not only to measure their English level, but to explore their interests, passions, goals, and desires.

Ill then design a course around these. For example, imagine a couple of intermediate level students whose stated priority is to work on pronunciation. They like movies, hiking, and reading... and they are huge Beatles fans.

So, I design a Beatles course, with an emphasis on pronunciation. Id use Beatles songs for pronunciation and vocab acquisition. Id interview other Beatles fans (fluent speakers), record and transcribe the interviews, and use them for conversation input. Id find audiobooks about the Beatles (Shout, etc.) and we would all listen to them in installments, then discuss them. Id use the movie technique with Beatles movies (Help!, A Hard Days Night,...). Wed read articles about the Beatles, interviews with them, reviews of their albums.... and Id make audio versions of each of these.. either by recording my own voice, or using Talkr software.

Each week, the students would record a podcast speech about some aspect of the Beatles.... Id then record myself doing the same speech (more or less), to provide comprehensible input and standard (American) pronunciation of the speech. The student would listen to my recording several times.

Our tiny group would form a Beatles book and film club. Outside class, wed read books about the Beatles, and watch movies about them (their movies, documentaries, etc.)... then meet once a week to discuss them.

The students would create "fan" blogs (one team blog, or individual blogs). Theyd connect their MP3 podcast files to the blog, write about whatever they wanted to, use Talkr to listen to what they wrote, and comment on other blogs.

If their level was closer to low intermediate, Id create TPR Stories using The Beatles and the students as characters. I might slip difficult pronunciation practice into the story (ex. lots of "r's" and "l's"), but would not draw attention to these points.

Finally, Id work with the students to develop an international project related to the Beatles... help them connect to fans in other countries (using Skype, etc.).

Of course, during the course, Id solicit additional ideas from the students.

There are enough boring factory schools that claim that "one size fits all". I plan to go to the opposite extreme-- total customization.

(PS: And while Ill be operating on a very small scale, it is possible for this approach to work on a larger one. See The Met School for an example).