Learning useful things for today and tomorrow. Here we’re starting a new section. This time we’ll be focusing on the Second Level of English at EGB3. (You might want to read the chapter entitled "Overall Framework", if you haven’t read it yet. You might find a number of points that will no doubt help you make sense of the topics discussed.)
Here we’re facing a group of learners who have hopefully managed to complete the contents in Level 1.
This is the picture: some of your learners might have completed their Level 1 at EGB 2 successfully. If this is the case, you might feel a certain degree of enjoyment on their part at the prospect of starting EGB 3 with a new Level. They will probably feel important and expectant.
To others, it might be, as they say in English, "a blessing in disguise", i.e. something one must gulp down as it were, for one’s future benefit. (The only problem is that the good of it is not apparent to them in any sense conceivable.)
There’s still another well defined group –those who have decided that "they’ll never make it in English", either because they’ve been convinced that this is so through sustained failure or because they’ve been de-motivated, or lazy, or because they speak a different Ll and this has not been part of the teachers’ priority in their syllabus.
Still, adolescence lurks in the background of all different groups. Even for the most enthusiastic, group allegiance and recognition might rank before any kind teacher initiated effort. Peers come first.
And so pronunciation and intonation might "go down the drain"; creativity and explicit interest might be disguised behind indifference and lack of participation. You might find that some of them often find it shocking having to engage in something when they can’t at first see why they’re doing it.
And the inevitable question, "Why learn more English? What for?
And here comes yet one more challenge. How to convince them that English is much much more than learning grammar and vocabulary? How to show them that it is possible to do some of their things in English? That it is a live language?
The challenge is then manifold: maintaining the interest of those who are interested; convincing the ones that see no point in learning English that it’s useful and interesting to learn it; and showing those learners who think they’re no good at learning it, that they can, but not theoretically, say: getting them to fulfil graded tasks with controlled communicative challenges.
The key, then, is motivation, ‘extrinsic’ motivation. Creating a favourable class atmosphere, where topic choice and targeted skills encourage interaction within their own teenage culture are taken into account. The interesting thing about young people is that there are elements of their ‘culture’ that do not respect national boundaries. American films and fashions are popular throughout the world. British and American pop groups are also very big in many places because English is the language of pop. In fact, groups that sing in English have a much larger potential audience. For example, the Swedish group Abba, which is going through a revival, was huge in the 70’s but there are lots of more recent examples.
Then, teenage mags like ‘Shout’, ‘Sugar’ or ‘Just 17’ are invaluable. Finding stuff that is of interest is a start. Making sure that it does not date, that it is suitable for classroom use, and that it is easy to use, is the challenge. These authentic materials can stimulate you and your learners to experiment and develop further materials of your own. All these will no doubt be refreshing and innovative.
And the other tearing question: how to promote "real communication"?, and motivate learners to listen and speak in English. Involving learners in the dynamics of the class is another key question. Peer-to-peer interaction in small groups is thought to offer a number of advantages (Richards and Lockhart, 1994, Brown, 1994): it reduces the dominance of the teacher over the class, it promotes collaboration among learners, it offers a more comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, it enables the teacher to work more as facilitator or consultant, it can promote learner responsibility and autonomy.../... but its crucial advantage is that it can increase the quantity of student talking time(STT) in the classroom.
Carry a survey among your learners. Ask them what they think about English and what uses they think they can put it to today and tomorrow. Suggest a few ideas but listen to theirs. All the best.
Richards, J. and Lockhart, C., Reflective Teaching in Second Language Classrooms, Cambridge, CUP,1994.
Brown, H. D., Teaching by Principles. An Inteactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, London, Prentice Hall Regents, 1994.