As English teachers, we’re almost always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to stimulate our language learners. It was ELT author and researcher Stephen D. Krashen who gave us his Affective Filter hypothesis of Second or Foreign language acquisition. (Krashen – Terrell, 1983) His hypothesis states, that conditions which promote low anxiety levels in class allow improved learning on the part of students. When learners enjoy class activities their Affective Filter is low and they learn more. New and different activities “out of the norm” also lower learner affective filters.
Here are some not-so-commonly-used techniques for adding that “new twist” to your English or foreign language classes. Giving learners something new does wonders in relieving boredom, spiking interest and lowering the Affective Filter of learners on whom you may have “tried everything”.
1. Using an iPod
Do you learners carry iPods or cellular phones? Don’t curse and swear at them for using technology in their lives. Turn it to your advantage! A number of good websites now exist that can get you and your learners up and running using this latest new technology for language learning and practice. Here are useful website for more podcasting information:
Podcasting: Audio on the Internet comes of age http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej36/int.html
Morning Stories http://www.wgbh.org/schedules/program-info?program_id=1434912
Podcast Pickle < http://www.podcastpickle.com/
Internet TESL Journal http://iteslj.org/links/ESL/Listening/Podcasts/
2. Let Mr. Bean Help You
You all know him and love his humorous twists on daily living. So don’t just sit there nodding, grab a CD or VHS full of episodes and try a few out on your learners. Let them do the talking. They can offer suggestions, write to Mr. Bean and his other characters, express opinions and do comparisons of his world vs. their own. By the way, is he REALLY an alien? Follow his antics, get video clips, program guides and more at:
3. Ask Walt Disney for Advice
Although I’m old enough to remember his presence and passing, Walt Disney can still make us laugh, smile, cry and cheer with the antics of scores of his characters and their families. Take some short “clips” from his animated stories. Change the situation. Alter the characters. Modify an ending or a beginning to cause a whole different outlook on age-old themes. Are your stories and characters better? As long as they’re different, stimulating and generate interest or discussion, that’s all that matters. Everyone, even you, will have a great time coming up with new twists on these classic themes. Try it!
Visit Disney online here:
4. Letting Learners Create Lesson Materials
Turnabout is fair play, or so they say. Take a day to switch roles. Have you ever let your learners write an exam? How about planning a fun class? Having a “hot” conversation on a topic that THEY want to talk about – music, movies, cute guys / gals, techno-babble? Nothing is taboo – well almost nothing, anyway! What do you think they’ll talk about? You’d be surprised!
5. Join the Club
Let’s all go to the Conversation Club. What you don’t have one? Okay then, start one – every Thursday from 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm or whatever time, day and duration may suit you and your learners. The key is to give THEM the majority of control, or at least as much as possible. Use props, use realia, use pictures, music or whatever you and your learners may have on hand to start, stop and sustain the activities. Other “clubs” you could join include:
· Pronunciation clubs
· Reading clubs
· Movie clubs
· Acting Clubs
Use your and your learners’ imaginations. The sky’s the limit – or maybe the Administration’s sky is the limit. But no matter, just try something new for starters.
Try some of these not-so-commonly-used techniques for adding that “new twist” to your English or foreign language classes. Give your learners something new to relieve any boredom and spike their interest. Can’t you just hear those Affective Filters falling now?