Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Motivate Reluctant EFL Learners Using These Five Critical Approaches

Teaching English to Difficult Groups

Eventually it happens. You are assigned a certifiable “group from Hell”. The students are unmotivated, unruly, unresponsive, inattentive, lazy, don’t have (and don’t want) English language course books, attend your English language classes sporadically (or often, not at all). The EFL teacher (this means YOU) is virtually ignored, homework is “forgotten” more often than it is done. Hey, and just forget about “class participation” – unless you include throwing things at you as class participation. Yet, you still have the responsibility to “teach” the group. There’s even some expectation on the part of the school administration and hopeful parents, of these students actually learning some English.

But how?

You cringe at the very thought of walking into a “class” with “them”. Why you’d rather face a pride of lions or a pack of ravenous timber wolves, you think to yourself.

But wait, there’s hope.

Five Critical Approaches

Anytime a notorious pack of hyenas shows up in my schedule calling itself an “English class”, I don’t fret – okay, well maybe a little at first – I pull the “fantastic five” out of my bag of tricks, then, “let the games begin”. Here are my five applied didactic approaches:

Theory of Dual Psychology

This theory, also known as “Split Brain Theory” indicates the existence of separate right and left brain dominant tendencies with insight, 3D, art, colors, imagination and music being situated primarily in the right brain hemisphere. Number skills, reasoning, written and spoken language are seated in the brain’s left hemisphere. Determining a learner’s dominant brain hemisphere can aid in providing a unique “learning pathway” into their mental capacities, helping both the teacher and the learner.

Providing an Enriched Learning Environment (M. Diamond, 1960s)

University of California – Berkeley’s Prof. Marion Diamond demonstrated during the 1960s that the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher nerve functions, increases under the influence of an enriched learning environment, just as an impoverished environment decreases the size of the brain.

Applied Multiple Intelligences Theory (H. Gardner, 1983)

Since 1983, Harvard University’s Prof. Howard Gardner has re-set educational boundaries with his theory of now nine specialized ”intelligences” inherent within each of us. The degrees of development of each of these intelligences varies from one person to another creating a unique individual. Once an individual learner’s intelligences or preferences are determined, they can be taught virtually any theme in a highly successful manner.

Using Hermann’s Brain Dominance Model (N. Hermann – pictured above)

Ned Hermann’s Brain Dominance model classifies personality strengths and weaknesses into cerebral and limbic, then sub-divides into four color-coded categories (blue - theorist, yellow-innovator, green-organizer and red-humanistic) which combine to create a unique personality in each person.

Identification and Use of Learner-Preferred Activities (D. Lazear)

As a kind of “offshoot” of the Multiple Intelligences, David Lazear expounds on the application of learner-preferred activities to allow leach person to learn in ways which are most “agreeable” to them, thus improving overall learning success.

A Wildly Diverse Group

Using these five approaches, singly or in combination, even the most wildly diverse EFL group can be “tamed”, motivated and actually taught, saving the sanity of even the most inexperienced teachers. But what exactly is each of these approaches? How can you effectively combine and apply these approaches? What materials and activities are effective in motivating a difficult group of EFL or foreign language students?

We’ll continue with a close examination of these approaches and detailing some useful techniques in upcoming parts of this article post series.

See you then.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Can You REALLY Learn a Foreign Language While You Sleep?" by requesting the title at:

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