Daniel Shiro – 

How many times have you been through the following steps?

  1. You give instructions to set up an activity
  2. You monitor learners from a distance
  3. You stop the learners and the activity
  4. You ask learners for their answers.
  5. You provide correction.
  6. You move on to the next activity.

If this is what most teachers are trained to do, and If this is what we see senior teachers doing, then it must be the best way to teach, right?

The problem: following rituals.

In fact, by only following those steps for the classroom activities, we are missing valuable learning (and teaching) opportunities. This is because we are not actively listening to our learners since we are more concerned about our timing as well as opening and closing activities rather than focusing on the learners’ needs. This results in lessons which may not be engaging or meaningful to learners – and we rarely stop to reflect on the effect this has on our learners. Futhermore, by only following the ‘rituals’ of going through the tasks and activities, we are not developing as professionals who are also agents of change.

The solution: simple changes and interaction.

If we pay closer attention to these steps and make a few simple changes, then our results may be optimised. For instance, instead of monitoring learners from a distance, move closer to a group of learners to show that you are actively listening and truly interested in what they have to say. You may also ask a few questions to encourage more discussion or suggest some corrections.

After you stop the activity, tell learners that you are going to ask them to report what they discussed – or what they answered in a given activity – then ask learners to pay attention to the peers who are giving you the answers. They should raise their hands if they have anything different or if they disagree. Encourage this interaction for most correction stages.

Then, listen to what your learners are reporting and to what learners who disagree or have a different answer are saying. Avoid only confirming correct answers and encourage discussion and reflection. This forces learners to listen to their peers and engage in the correction.  This also makes you take the role of a mediator as learners are interacting, reacting and listening to each other instead of only listening to you. This is student-centred learning.

Conclusion

Remember that whenever learners discuss their answers and express their opinions, they are more engaged and they feel they are taking an active role in their learning. Our job as teachers is mainly to help learners become more autonomous, and an understanding of what we do becomes the key for that.

Do you have any suggestions for making our lessons more engaging? Do you have any questions you want to see answered?

Let me know by sending an e-mail to daniel@optimalanguages.com and I’ll do my best to help you become a better teacher.