This month Jim Scrivener talks about how teachers can encourage their students to become more aware of the learning process.
Many teachers believe that their students will progress faster if they become more aware of how they are learning (or not learning). How can a teacher encourage his or her class to pay more attention to thinking about these things?
The old-fashioned Learner Diary never seemed to be terribly popular with students – but new technology does offer us new possibilities. Find a friendly free blogging website (i.e. a place where people can keep their own online diary known as a blog) that you can recommend to your class and, for homework, ask everyone to sign on to start their own blog. After that, ask students to make entries at least once a week about how they are coping with their English study, what they’ve read or done, what is difficult, questions they have etc. Encourage students to read each other’s blogs. Regularly sign on yourself to have a quick look at their entries – and reply to some points or update your own teaching blog!
You can find some examples of free blogging sites at the bottom of the page.
Ask each student to buy a large scrapbook – i.e. a book with blank pages for sticking things in. Advise them to use this to collect any pieces of written English that they needed to read. They should add a brief annotation to each one saying something about the language used (e.g. “This was quite short and easy to read” or “I found this really hard to understand”). So, for example, a scrapbook might contain classroom photocopies, printouts from a website, leaflets, emails etc. Occasionally have scrapbook browsing days when students can share their scrapbooks with their classmates and ask questions.
Don’t just teach and teach and teach and teach… Occasionally you need to stop and allow time for students to look back and take stock of where they are and where they are going. If you have the time, individual tutorials are great, but, with large classes, this can be difficult to arrange. However, even whole class tutorials can be very productive. For example, once a month, set aside 30 minutes to talk – not about the content the students have been studying, but about how they are coping with it. Prepare a few relevant questions (e.g. Are you managing to remember the new vocabulary we study? Is it too much or too little?) Start students talking in small groups to warm them up. After a while, bring the class together for a lively comparison of views. The aim is for students to start thinking about learning issues – don’t try to force anyone into accepting “right” answers.
Get your classes involved in the Council of Europe scheme for Language Passports. (To find out more, there is a link below). These useful online documents get learners to really think about what they can do in different skills areas – and to record their language levels. Even if you don’t ask your students to create their own passports, download a blank template and use the European levels self-assessment grid to help students think about their own levels in English.