Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, February 16, 2006


by AJ

Continuing on the last post's theme....... Most teachers, I think, dont spend enough time listening to their students. I have been guilty of this. I was frantically trying to do a good job for them, but I was flying blind. Save for a few complaints/suggestions... I didnt really know how they felt, what they wanted,... nor did they understand me.

So today we had another discussion about the class. First, my gung-ho Korean student made a presentation about the book "Never Study In English". This book is by a Korean man who self-taught himself English.. and became a fluent, native-like speaker. My student summarized his book, and outlined the self-study approach the man used:

1. First, learn BASIC grammar. The man first learned the simple basics of English grammar: past, present, future tenses, etc... the sort of stuff you find in a first year grammar book. He stressed that he steadfastly avoided memorizing the rules... and avoided complex grammar (passive voice, phrasal verbs, etc.).

2. Second, build vocabulary with authentic materials. The man recommended using only an English to English dictionary, not a translation dictionary.

3. Third, build basic listening skills. The writer used easy to understand audiobooks primarily. He listened to the same material multiple times. As he did, he often tried to write what he was hearing... focusing on capturing the sounds (not worrying about correct spelling).

4. Fourth, build advanced listening skills with movies. The writer used English movies with English subtitles. He slowly worked through each film... pausing, rewinding, looking up unknown words (in his English-English dictionary).... asking native speakers about difficult idioms/slang.

After my student presented this information, we discussed it. Each of my students discussed what they saw as the strengths and limitations of the man's approach.

I then put them in pairs and asked each pair to re-plan my class.... to come up with a 3.5 hour daily routine... based on their English needs/goals. Each pair presented their ideal schedule, and then we had a lively discussion comparing them... some students arguing for/against various elements.

Finally, a consensus agreement emerged.... and we decided to try the following daily schedule:

9:00-9:30 Review the grammar textbook
9:30-10:00 Listening skills (listen to an easy audiobook story) OR (listen to a song)
10:00-11:00 Discuss the story/song, review new vocabulary & practice it.
11:00-11:30 Break
11:30-12:30 Movie Technique (watch a movie, teacher pauses, rewinds, paraphrases, questions, and explains often)
12:30-1:00 Practice & discuss new vocabulary from the movie. Discuss the movie.

Homework: A mix of:
Review the movie scenes again, at home.
Do exercises in the grammar textbook.
Free reading/Assigned reading.
Listen to podcasts.
Read an article.

And so this is my IEP (Intensive English Program) plan for my low-intermediate level class. Actually, I should say this is OUR plan. (One nice side benefit of sharing power with your students... if things dont work well, they share in the responsibility... and therefore, in finding a new solution).