Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from David Foster (@df0z) and Ann-Marie Richard’s talk. They teach for British Study Centres in London. With no internet access, this was written during the talk.
The subtitle is ‘Promoting interest in the local area and the community’.
How much English do your students use outside the classroom? Most people in the talk said not enough, and nobody said ‘enough’. The aim is to get students engaged and using as much English as possible.
Although students come from around the world, they are all united in being excited about being in a native-speaker emvironment and want to make the most of it. However, it can be difficult for them to access these resources.
What’s in it for the students?
It empowers them to interact with native speakers. It exposes them to a range of language and a range of accents. It helps their listening skills and develops their fluency. This makes it easier to listen to them, so expert speakers may be more likely to engage with the students. This creates a positive spiral – students become more fluent, so people speak to them, so students become more fluent.
Some students come to the UK, but miss out on the opportunities they have here, so as teachers we have to act as a bridge to help students interact in the community.
Surveys: interviewing members of the public.
You need to prepare the students before you send them out, for example by testing the survey in class, then around school, before taking it outside the school. Send them out without the teacher to give them possession of the language. To summarise it, you can ask students to make posters. Encourage students to feedback what they thought about the process. Ann-Marie’s students said it opened their minds and helped them to be less shy. Although students were reluctant at the start of the process, they enjoyed it in the end.
– make it a week-long project
– mix L1s
– give them props: clipboards etc
– big it up! Help students to see why it might be useful.
– keep it simple: tick box/tally style
– recording: students can ask to record the people they’re interviewing (ask permission!)
– encourage them to smile and to mention that they’re from an ‘international language school’ – it can help to break the ice
– explain to them that people might be rude
Ann-Marie said business people are interested in getting involved. For example, the fish and chip shop owner near their school gave the students lots of free fish and chips when they interviewed them!
An interview project
David ran this project with an FCE class at upper intermediate level. The challenge with this type of class is to motivate the learners. Students had to organise an interview with a professional. David knew these people and asked them to help. Students were nervous and excited about the interviews.
Preparation is key to getting anything like this to work.
Students researched the careers, came up with questions and predicted possible answers. One of the students said that it was his first time speaking to a British person. He was nervous and worried, but it was OK in the end, so was motivated. They might not learn language specifically, but they will always learn something: another student learnt that university degrees don’t always lead to a career in the same context.
Outside the UK
Teachers often know people from an expat community, or fluent non-natives who can be interviewed. Take advantage of them.
Because students had taken part in trips through school, they were more willing to get a different perspective on their environment and became less worried about speaking to natives.
Ultimately, what we are doing with task-based trips is entering into a dialogue with students about the value of interacting with native speakers.