How to compete with the internet and games.
In the world, as we live in today, in which almost every person we have as a student has the chance to be in contact with any kind of technology that can provide then some input over the language. Video games, and social media being two good examples for that. We can’t put ourselves away from the question: How can we, as teachers, keep up with that? Students have the chance to learn new words, and talk to people from other countries with the touch of their hands. What is the role of a teacher in a classroom today?
Our role is not only to teach new things; we are now the teacher who teaches and guides them on how to use all the amount of information they get from the world wide web and games correctly and also how to find what they want to learn and where they can or not trust the information they get.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CLASSROOM? How can we compete with all the media?
Here are some ideas on how to work in your class and be able to provide robust and consistent input to your students.
One good way to provide input and motivate students to use what they have learnt with you or with the internet is for you to use the language in the most natural way you can and to connect it to your students’ context. It’s going to be a win-win situation. This will help them feel more comfortable to do just the same and get more confidence over time.
Although you must communicate in a natural way throughout your class, a good moment to have your students to communicate is right at the beginning of your class, with a good start up conversation. This will set the mood for the entire class.
Another way to introduce input is by giving your students the opportunity to get in contact with structures, chunks, and expressions they will be able to use outside of the classroom. These expressions don’t need to be in their books. You can come up with a nice idiom or phrasal verb connected to the content you are seeing, but as something extra, e.g., You are teaching seasons and weather vocabulary. You can teach them the expression “it’s raining cats and dogs!“. Or, during a game with you real beginners, you can already teach them, “It’s my/your turn!”.
GIVE YOUR STUDENTS THE SPEECH
Students want to speak, even when they say they are shy or afraid of making mistakes (We’ll talk about mistakes in the next item) they want to show you they are learning what you are teaching.
There are two moments, among many, when we can use their willingness to speak in their favour. The first one is during review classes. You can divide your students into groups and give each of them a theme based on what they have recently learnt, and ask them to create a presentation and some exercises to present to the other students. This way, they will feel like they are a very important part of the class and they will produce the language while helping others and showing you what they have learnt.
The second example is quite similar to the review class, but instead of checking structures, the students can have a project to present at the end of the term or classes as part of their evaluation. They could have a problem-solving exercise or a curiosity question to look for the answer or anything you can think your groups would have fun doing like the history of social media, video games, etc.
DON’T AVOID MISTAKES
Mistakes exist for one reason: to help us learn things. Don’t be afraid of your students’ mistakes, and you don’t need to be afraid of your own mistakes as well. We are human, we don’t know everything, and we make mistakes, that’s a fact. So, why do we think we can’t make mistakes in front of our students. WE CAN.
In fact, when we make a mistake in front of our students or tell them honestly that we don’t know that word or expression they got from a game or web page, we are telling them that everyone is still and always in a learning process in which is OK to make mistakes. They will certainly be less afraid of making mistakes and will respect you more for being honest with them.
It doesn’t matter which technique you choose to teach your students or the material you use. What you must keep in mind is that they are human beings and that you have probably been in their shoes when you were a student. We must release ourselves from the need to be in charge all the time and to have the power. A classroom is not a battlefield; it’s a place where we are supposed to have a good time, FUN.
If you feel uncomfortable with something you have to teach or an activity you need to present, talk to your peers, they may have a different approach. Don’t be scared of asking for help. Remember you are not showing weakness, you are being honest. And to be honest, from my personal experience, makes students and peers respect you more and become willing to learn and work with you.
I hope this helps you to be inspired to give your classes in the best way you can, and have fun with your students on the way. Which tip do you think would suit you and your students best? Do you have any other insights on that?