What do students really want?
What keeps them going?
Several things got me contemplating about this.
Is it… fun?
Fun in the classroom was the topic of this year’s InnovateELT conference – which unfortunately I didn’t attend but was in the know (thanks, Internet). Fun in ELT is a concept I used to relate with my mentor on my first teaching job since she always accentuated the importance of dynamic and fun in the class, be it games, energizers, singing, etc. I used to consider many of these activities an essential part of each and every lesson, thinking my students were finding their English experience totally enjoyable. In this short teaching career of mine, my attitudes have changed.
Fast forward 5 years, recently I had a strong B2 group that was quite a self critical one. And passive. And sleepy. And found a half of coursebook lessons boring and easy. Challenge accepted – said eager me. So I made sure that every lesson increased positivity, dynamics and was a bit more challenging than the coursebook. At the end of the course, the lessons were engaging (hence, they didn’t fall asleep), but I felt that they could have/should have learned more.
So… is it some sort of…. Spanish inquisition?
One group of A2 students was swamped with tons of extra materials: grammar, vocab, culture, webquest activities… Throughout the course their reactions were: teacher, so much homework… again!?!? – but in a good way. I could see that they were enjoying all the knowledge they got. From one shy beginner group they became a fantastic self-confident group of language learners any teacher could only wish for. Thanks to the great effort from both sides, my students and I were all satisfied for having seen the progress so clearly.
Let’s stop and think for a second and ask ourselves why we’re doing everything we’re doing in a lesson. Mr. Obvious here, but just a quick reminder that, once out of our class, students want to be able to use successfully those skills acquired. They are in our class because they want the sense of having learnt something, a sense of achievement.
Our superpower, teaching, is one hell of a rewarding profession and ever since I started teaching I’ve been reading about it and constantly trying out ways to improve my way of teaching. After all, that’s why I’m here in the blogosphere. I can say that, yes, fun is a helpful tool, an icing on the cake if you want. Using technology does wonders. Following a coursebook syllabus is a nice basis. But I think that recognising students’ needs first and foremost and helping them make as much progress as they can is what really keeps them going.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!
A nice read: