I usually talk to students and collect feedback from them, both formally and informally. And it never fails to amaze me how much we think we know about each other. Teachers and Learners assume too much and in this pointless world of assumptions a lot of miscommunication happens. Maybe, assuming is not so pointless if we bring them into the conversations we can have with each other, or use them as a base to find out what learners really think and understand their attitudes towards English, learning, doing things, the teacher, teaching, their own classmates and so on. In this series, I want to document my learners beliefs and attitudes according to their own words, instead of basing them on my assumptions. The following statement was collected through a Google Form.
I think we should try to do conversation classes so that we can improve our pronunciation.
Background information: This group is formed by five students who are 14 years old. Two of them have just started the course this semester and their contact with English is somewhat limited to listening to music. The third student loves Manga and Anime. He is an introvert. He likes drawing Manga too and just started the course but after taking a placement test he advanced couple of semesters. And although I know he might have more vocabulary than the other two students, he acts like a total beginner. The fourth student has been studying with us for more than two years. She’s a good student. She loves music and loves reading books in L1, but she doesn’t feel confident to speak in English. She can understand a lot though.
The fifth student had never had English classes and just started having classes with us. He’s the perfect student type. All teachers will follow in love with him. He’s independent, autonomous and down-to-earth, self-aware and why not a dreamer. He didn’t connect to me until he found out I spent few years drawing and painting. Since then, every week after class he asks me questions about art. I’ve already lent him books and I’m about to give him art DVDs to support his dream to become a professional artist.
How well does he speak in English? Well, He was never shy to speak in English but he seemed to lack words and the question “how do I say ——- in English?” with time became less frequent. Despite the fact that he thinks there is no conversation going in our classes, we speak a lot to each other in class and after that and only in English. And can he discuss anything in English? Oh, boy. He can! I noticed the other students when these interactions occur and it might not be as he assume it is, but I’d like him to have sometime to think about this some more.
His suggestion can mean many things but I think it’s a waste of time to assume anything at this point. I am happy they feel free to tell me what they think we should do or being doing. So, in order to understand his proposition better I think I would need to:
1) talk to him about it.
2) or, bring it to the other students to see how they feel about it.
The first student who is a beginner is a girl and she isn’t shy to give it a try. I talk to students in English quite a lot and support them ( I encourage them to reply in English, I feed the words or help them formulate it in English, and I try to correct them on the spot only when I feel it might not affect their confidence). The second student is a boy, a beginner and he doesn’t feel comfortable when I help him formulate the sentences. The third student is similar to the first one despite the fact that he does know more than the second one in terms of vocabulary knowledge. The fourth student is the quiet type, she only says something if she really has to. I’ve noticed that the fifth student expects her to speak in English because she has been studying more than two years now. I’ve seem them shooting comments at each other and they sit on opposite sides of the room. So whatever they say to each other is hard to miss.
My perception is that pushing them to speak won’t do any good. S5 seems to think that is what they need. Trying not to assume anything, I wrote the following in his notebook. I have no idea yet how he’s taking this and what he’ll choose to do about it as I made clear he is not forced to answer the questions at all.
Follow-up post soon!