Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Saturday, May 06, 2006

"Process Discussions"

by AJ

Next week I begin a new class. Ive found, through experience, that its important to have a lot of discussions in the beginning. By "discussions", Im not talking about language conversation activities.

Rather, its important to discuss what will happen in the course. This is a period of communication and negotiation, in which the students and teacher together agree on goals, approaches, ground rules, etc.

Some of the topics I intend to broach:

* Individual Learning Goals
Ill have each student write about their individual English learning goals. This may be in terms of language specifics (learn 20 new words per day) or in terms of what they hope to do with the language (successfully pass a job interview in English).. or both. Once students establish these individual goals, I ask them to share them with small groups, and then the class as a whole. I also meet with them individually to discuss their goals.

* Discuss My Approach
I like to be up-front about my strengths, my weaknesses, my preferences, and my approach as a teacher. I want them to understand what I do and why. I usually bring research articles that discuss/support my approach, read them with the class, and discuss their implications. I dont try to convince them that my way is the best way... only that what I do is not based on a random whim.

* Discuss Their Learning Styles
Every student is different,.. so its important for the teacher.. and other students.. to understand each other. For one, this helps me predict possible problems (ie. a grammar-translation maniac is going to struggle with me, and vice versa) and address the issue head on.

* Discuss Group Dynamics
I like to have direct and frank discussions about class dynamics. I address the issue of dominant and quiet students, and tell them up front that I will strive to give every student opportunities to communicate. I let them know that this sometimes means that I must stop dominating students... and encourage quieter ones. I ask for their help to ensure that everyone gets to participate.

All of this takes time. I used to worry that it took too much time. But Ive found that time spent doing this in the beginning saves a mountain of time and aggravation down the road.

San Francisco, CA