What happened next!

(Continuation from this post)
Then he asked why they were there. He said he wanted to know that, before he started talking, to be sure everyone was on the same wavelength. He pointed to students and asked them. Many of them said “study” and “learn”.

Next he asked, what does “learn” mean? If that’s what we’re here for, we should be clear what it means. He asked one student with a dictionary (he expressed shock that so few students brought dictionaries to class) to look it up in Japanese, and to read aloud ALL the definitions she found there. Once that had been cleared up, the next stage was to ask, how were they going to achieve that? If learning English was the goal, how were they going to achieve it?

One of the definitions of learning the student read out was “mi ni tsuku”. “Mi” in Japanese means “the human body”, and “tsuku” is a verb which means to attach, to stick (“ni” is a preposition). He then spoke about “studying” versus “learning to use” English (I had mentioned to him during the 5-minute “brief” before the students came in, that students seemed to have spent their 6 years studying English but not learning it because they could not use it). He pointed out that there is a difference, and then asked students which one they were aiming for? He asked if students had much opportunity to speak English outside of class and they said no. “So, we must CREATE the opportunities”. He then invited pairs of students to come out to the front with him; he invited other students (or sometimes the performing students themselves) to provide two or three English words or topics for the conversation, and the two performing students were invited to create a simple dialogue using these words or topics. He continued doing this with various pairs of students until just before the end of the class. For the last 5 minutes or so he fielded questions from the audience.

Our visitor spoke to two groups of students, one after the other. In the second group, which was quieter and less cooperative and lively, he spent more time on this difference between studying and learning to use the language, and he did it in the following way. Having briefly stated that there is a difference, he then began inviting students to come to the front. One student declined, at which our speaker defined the difference in more detail, and again asked the student which one he wanted to aim for.
You come to class, you don’t really participate, and just before the exam you review like mad, take the exam, get the credits, and that’s it, is it? No doubt you have other classes like that where that is perfectly acceptable. But this class is different, the purpose of this class is mi ni tsuku, learning to
use English. You’ve said that’s what you want. And we’ve agreed that to do that, we need to create opportunities to use the language. Well, I’m creating an opportunity for you, and now you say you don’t want to take it. That suggests to me that your purpose might not be to learn to use the language. Is that what you’re saying?

Obviously, this was putting some pressure on the student to comply with the request, but I felt it was valid because in doing so our speaker clarified for everyone this issue and worked on it a little, which is something I had been hoping he would! Also, he did it with humour, without making fun of the student, and “sugaring the pill”.

That’s as much as I can remember without watching the video I took. I plan to use some of this approach in my freshmen classes which start in April.

One thought on “What happened next!”

  1. Hi MP, I posted the last comment “What happened next” and I’m surprised that you couldn’t see my profile. When I found your comment, I clickd on your name and that took me to your profile in which three blogs are listed. Anyway. I enjoyed your post, it sounds as if you’ve invited some very inspiring people. There’s just one technical hitch for me and that is that the first couple of letters of each line are cut off on the left hand side of the screen. It’s probably a mac-compatablility problem with Blogger.
    To answer your question about the Proust questions, I’ve posted the whole list to the Wiki under “Teaching Ideas” where there’s a link that will take you to another guy’s blog where there’s an explanation of how it all started (apparently Proust didn’t actually invent the questions he just gave very interesting answers to them. It was a popular parlour game when he was young.) Bye for now

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