Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


by AJ

Your students are always smarter than you are. Never forget this.

Today I finally sat down with my class and had a long talk. I told them about my concerns. I discussed the techniques I was trying to use (movie technique, TPRS) and WHY I was using them. I also mentioned my observations... for example, I noted that one of the students fell asleep yesterday during the movie and another left.

I did not scold them, of course. Rather, I said, "This is what Im trying and why, and this is what Ive noticed from you.. now how do you feel about all this?". We had an excellent discussion.

First of all, I gained a much better understanding of them. I learned from my sleeping student (who is actually super motivated) that she found the movie technique, AS I HAD USED IT, too overwhelming. She then suggested the following adapted approach:

1. Instead of doing 90 minutes of the movie technique without stopping.... try doing it for only 15-30 minutes at a time.
2. Since there is so much new language/phrases... please help us understand which are the most common & useful, and which are less so.
3. After 15-30 minutes, let's go back to the classroom to discuss and review. Let's review the new language (phrases & grammar) we learned and practice them till we can remember and understand them. Then let's discuss the movie's plot & characters.
4. After the review and discussion, let's return to the movie and watch another 15-30 minutes.. repeating the above process again.
5. Finally, as homework, why don't we each rent the movie and review it at home (yet again).

I thought these were excellent suggestions. Today we tried her method and it worked great. She was riveted to the screen the entire time, took notes, and seemed fully engaged. All of the students seemed to value the review & practice sessions. I also found them useful, as I could give better explanations and examples without the need to keep the movie rolling.

This discussion also helped the students better understand me. I discussed, in detail, the research and rationale behind the movie technique. I discussed the reasons I thought it was superior to traditional methods. We read a simplified research article about a program that uses the technique.

As a result, ALL of the students became much more interested in the technique. We had a lively and interesting discussion and all agreed they wanted to continue with it. Even better, the student who had walked out yesterday seemed to finally "get it". In truth, I didnt convince her... the other students did.

Even better-- during the discussion, one of my enthusiastic Korean students mentioned a book he'd read about learning English. The book is by a Korean man who learned to speak English fluently, with a native-like accent... through self-study only. The man wrote a book (in Korean) to describe how he did it. Turns out one of his main methods was using movies. He watched the same movie repeatedly, using English subtitles. My student had read this book and so was very excited when I started to use the movie technique (he's one of the passionate fans of the method).

Tomorrow he is going to give a presentation about the book to the class...


Today was a fabulous learning (and relearning) experience for me. I was reminded that the best way to handle frustration in the class is to go directly to the students... discuss the situation openly. Id forgotten how often I used to do this at TU.... (and how little Ive done this at my new school). Id forgotten that you dont just spring new methods on students, you've got to discuss them, justify them, present the research, summarize the benefits. You've got to get their permission to give it a try... and must continue to get their suggestions and ideas throughout the process.

In recent posts Ive complained that I have yet to "click" with my new students. Now I know why. Up to now, Ive treated the class as "my class"... not "our class". Today I changed that.... and today we "clicked".

There are plenty of jargon names for what happened today: "needs assessment", "process evaluation", "feedback session"... but those terms lack elegance and soul... they miss an essential element of the process.

Its not just about getting suggestions. Its about sharing power. Its about making decisions TOGETHER. Its about getting everyone to buy in EMOTIONALLLY and INTELLECTUALLY.

The more power your students have, the more powerful you become as a teacher.

Never forget: Your students are smarter than you are.