Continuing with the theme of freedom for students to choose their own materials, here is another insight into one of my students.
I asked an advanced general English teacher that is a web designer and coder what he would like to learn. Much to my delight, like me, he is keen on technology and science fiction. So, in addition to the deep conversations and debates we have had about AI and ethics and the possibility of sustaining life on Mars we have shared YouTube clips, films and series that we both find fascinating.
This student is keen to widen his lexical range and to know if his colleagues are speaking correctly when they converse in English (because he works in a Danish company in Barcelona, so the “lingua franca” is English). To help him broaden his lexicon, I have suggested that once a week when he is reading journals and literature for work, that he focuses on the language, and pays special attention to the lexical items he understands from context, but that he wouldn’t be able to define in English or in Spanish. I steered him towards a free Spanish English dictionary app that stores the words looked up in “recientes” an option at the bottom of the screen. This is a great way to revise lexis which has been consulted in the dictionary and can be used to review and retrieve to ensure lexical items become a part of personal lexicon. The student has started to do this and is so far sticking to it! Bearing in mind that lexical items need to be used no less than twelve times it will take time to see drastic changes however gradually he will be able to build up his working vocabulary.
Another useful tool that we discussed doing was writing notes on his smartphone while talking to his colleagues (it is now considered professional etiquette here in Spain to use your phone while engaging in conversation with somebody) to help him remember what his colleagues have said. The idea is that he will then have more time to reflect after the conversation to ensure what was said was correct. This may seem an odd strategy, but the student is worried that his English is being “dumbed down” by less proficient colleagues. Recording progress on this is understandably more difficult.
Freedom for students to choose their own materials
Part 2: Mindfulness
I had mentioned mindfulness with a business class before the summer. They have returned to their office after the holidays with several organisational changes that they are not particularly enamoured with, so they asked if they could learn about mindfulness at work. After the class the students said it was all good and well what we had learnt about mindfulness during the lesson, but asked for suggestions about how to continue practising and incorporating what we had learnt in the lesson in their day to day. I therefore suggested two apps which I use which find help me engage in mindfulness.
Headspace: Guided Meditation and Mindfulness
This was perhaps one of the first free websites and apps that came on the market and introduced the general public to the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. It is a good way for students to be exposed to authentic listening material and in addition they are reaping the rewards of a calmer state of mind. In class the students agreed they are going to listen to and engage with the app once a week at home. They are going to discuss which meditation they listened to, if they enjoyed it, and how it made them felt, the following week in class. So by doing this we will be bringing mindfulness into the classroom every week.
This app sends daily mindfulness quotes for inspiration. It is a good way for learners to read something authentic in English every day, despite being short. The students have agreed that if there are any quotes which they especially like, or if there is any language they are unfamiliar with or want to discuss, we will also dedicate class time to that once a week.
Freedom for students to choose their own materials
Part 1: New year, fresh start
With the new academic year in sight I decided it was time to finally dust the bookshelves, recycle any unwanted papers I had held onto “just in case”, and make space for new books and journals. The autumn clean also involved rearranging and tidying the bookshelves, which lead to the idea for this post and others to come in the near future. Amongst all the books and papers was a pile of dog-eared notebooks that I have accumulated from conferences, talks, and workshops.
So, with no further ado, I have decided to spend some time going through the notes and scribbles that I made with gust and vigour at the time, but that have stayed safely squirrelled away and not seen the light of day since they were originally written down!
So I’ve decided to embark on a long journey of teacher development as I try, test and experiment with the ideas that others in the field have kindly taken the time to share.
In the first notebook I randomly opened I found “Freedom for students to choose their own materials & why chosen”. Obviously giving learners the freedom to choose their learning material is not appropriate for every context but it is certainly an idea that I feel will give them more learner autonomy and make them more mindful and aware of what they are learning and why. I intend to try this with my classes during the next few days, and share their ideas and findings here!