Common ESL classroom issue 7: the lack of opportunity to PRESENT

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This is a classic issue when being taught by ‘old school’ teaching techniques. Some teachers want to simply lecture, get students to take notes and go home. Students who are in this learning environment today when it comes to learning English, will lose out if they don’t have a chance to show what they know – publicly.

There are so many layers to this kind of problem. Firstly, it is almost always a cultural issue. Teachers who have been raised themselves in an environment where students are to be seen and not heard, will slip into this as it is the world they know and feel most comfortable with. If a student is to speak up or joke around, the immediate response is to shut them up and label them as being disruptive and difficult. However, learning English requires some kind of fooling around from time to time, this is how students build their confidence to speak and play with the language.

Another common problem in these classes are the lack of speaking opportunities. This can be due to the issue above, or it can be also because the students themselves are still caught in the trap of their culture, e.g. not feeling comfortable looking eye to eye with someone they respect, or fear of appearing overly confident and as a result being picked on by the rest of the class for trying to be different. This kind of behaviour is the most difficult to address as the student themselves are creating a reason for not presenting that to even address it, is to be insolent to them and their culture.

Another common mistake that some teachers make is teaching from the point of view of getting students to ‘finish their sentences’. This doesn’t allow the student to bring anything new to the table, and will often find themselves developing not their language skills but their ‘mind-reading’ skills. Common attributes of this problem are when teachers state half the sentence raising the intonation at the end in order to make it a question of ‘….and what is the next part of this sentence’.

These problems are often cultural, but can impact long term ESL learning. All students no matter what age, do need to present to the class what they have learned, or at least attempt to in order to see where they are at and not only what they can do at this point, but where they need to go from here.

Great ways to present are:

  • All speaking activities:
    • Conversation practice
    • Role play
    • Debating
  • Written activities that need marking by either the teacher or a partner
    • Essays
    • Assignments
    • Written dialogues or poems
    • Sharing ideas on paper
    • Group projects
  • All interactive games
    • Students are either working in teams or independently to try to compete with others in their knowledge of their ability
  • All activities where students are asked to partner with someone who doesn’t speak their language
    • Some of the most important speaking activities happen incidentally when trying to speak to someone who doesn’t speak their language. This can be the most powerful form of presenting, as it comes almost unconsciously and for a good purpose
  • Any question and answer time in class with the teacher is a simple form of presenting, but still worthwhile if the teacher knows how to get the student to expand on what they mean, etc

Presenting is the cornerstone of learning a language. Without presenting, there is little language learning.

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