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“Be curious, not judgemental.”
—Walt Whitman (1819-1892), American poet
What makes classroom materials “student-centered”? How do fluency-focused materials help create a livelier learning environment?
While the web allows English teachers to individualize instruction to an astonishing degree, teachers must prepare flexible, student-centered materials and lead by example. In my experience, it remains crucial to motivate English students more out of choice than duty – and tailor our ESL and EFL material as much as possible to our individual students. We set the standards, and students follow their interests while developing their reading and speaking skills. What does that mean?
Try it out
Here is an example of a “Search and Share” worksheet that I’ve used with considerable success in intermediate and advanced ESL classes.
Talking About Your Own Hometown!
Student Name: Class:
Please find an article about your hometown in English that you would like to share with your classmates. Read the article, clip the article, and be prepared to talk about the article.
What’s the main idea?
How many sources were quoted?
Where there any illustrations? Can you describe them?
What did you learn in this article?
What was the most interesting part for you? Why?
Write down 5 new vocabulary words, idioms, or expressions.
How would you rate the article 1-10? Why?
Why did you choose this article?
How To Use
English students search the web, select an article, fill out the form, and share their articles in small groups of 3-4. (Obviously, the activity works better in a genuine international classroom with students from many countries like in many American summer language programs.)
Then I ask for “brave volunteers” to give us a brief presentation to the class. Although only a few students may volunteer at first, soon everyone wants to share their article and hometown stories. Consequently, by putting more emphasis on student speaking this simple, yet communicative, technique helps create a lively ESL classroom. It also allows students to incorporate this new information with their prior knowledge, and build new positive experiences in English.
An Increasingly Global Approach
However, communicative activities remain under-appreciated in many English language classrooms. This is especially true in Asia, where preparing for standardized testing and drill-and-kill grammar exercises remains the highest priority. But seeing is believing. The education ministries in many Asian countries are in the process of reforming their English language programs. Japan’s new English standards include testing speaking skills on standardized exams, and even more ambitious goals planned for 2020. Vietnam, too, has embarked on an impressive English education campaign in recent years. The word is out: learning English should lead to English students being able to speak English!
Though quality, student-centered EFL and ESL materials still remain relatively scarce, EFL teachers continue to bring communicative techniques and direct learning methods to more and more Asian students. This positive trend lead to the development of both Compelling Conversations – Vietnam and Compelling Conversations – Japan.
We live in a wonderful time to teach English. Consider me hopeful that Compelling Conversations will continue to find an audience in Japan, Vietnam – and around the world!
For a selection of free sample chapters from both of the titles mentioned above, click here!