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Once our students decide they are going to be studying IELTS they begin a course called ‘Academic Skills’. Within this course they learn all the necessary skills to build up to passing the IELTS exam. One of these skills is of course ‘skimming’.
We introduce this skill early on in the course as to master skimming is a very important point before they get into the finer details of understanding a text.
What I did first was to write the word on the board, ‘skimming’, then asked them what they knew about the word. Most were bewildered and knew nothing much while the others went straight to the mobile phones and looked it up on Google.
This I was very pleased to see – using technology to find their answers without me showing them – great. But most of them laughed and said ‘Yes teacher we know this one very well’.
I asked them why they were laughing as the word ‘skimming’ isn’t a particularly funny word. They all looked around the classroom and laughed at each other too, until one finally raised his hand and said:
“Teacher in this class we are all from the Middle East and Africa, we all understand skimming very well”.
I was even more confused. “Really?”
“Yes,” he replied, “The only question we have is why you want us to learn this here in class, this is not something we should learn in English”
Now I was sure something was not getting translated well. I asked them to tell me what they had on their mobile phones. They all showed me their answer – it said “SKIMMING – taking money out of the coffers for yourself.”
They all laughed with me, but one also burst out – “We are from Libya and Yemen….it is common for us to do this….so why are we learning this here…we know it is wrong, but it is our custom.”
I quickly set them straight and though they all felt a bit embarrassed at having divulged a side of their culture they were not proud of, they all laughed too, and made sure they learned the new meaning for the rest of their time learning English.
Tell me some more of your own!