• How We Can Develop Intrinsic Motivation in Our ESL Students. Specific Examples. (Part 1)

REV Cover Intrinsic Pt 1

 

As I was leaving the hardware store with some light bulbs, I asked the very helpful clerk, Rich, what his plans were for that evening. He said, “I get to go home and play with my tools.” He was going to help his neighbor with some plumbing project.

I now realize that I was witnessing someone with pure intrinsic motivation. Even after spending all day selling tools, he enjoyed them so much that he was looking forward to working with them just for the pleasure and satisfaction that he got from them.

It is possible for our ESL students to be similarly intrinsically motivated to learn English.

 And there are ways that we can help them develop this.

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The Power of Listening Input for Language Learners

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(True story.) It’s the September of 1985, the year that Stevie Wonder released an international hit song. I’m on campus in Japan and happen to run into a couple of my students from spring term, Yuki and Hana.

“How was your summer?” I ask.

“Wonderful! I went to Europe with my family,” Yuki says.

“That’s great! How about you Hana?”

“Interesting. I had a part-time lover,” Hana answers.

Both Yuki and I look astonished and laughingly ask simultaneously, “You had a what?!!”

“I had a part-time lover. … Oh, no, I mean I had a part-time job!” Hana replies with some embarrassment when she realizes what she had said.

She then explains how she had often heard Stevie Wonder’s “Part-Time Lover” during the summer.

Hana’s automatic response to my question demonstrated the power of listening input. Since then, I’ve found ways to tap into it’s potential in helping student internalize grammar concepts and new vocabulary, and even how to write paragraphs and essays.

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• Standardized (In-House) ESL Proficiency Tests Can Be Effective and Liberating

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I had always sworn that I would quit teaching before ever taking a position in a program that used standardized test results as the criteria for promoting students.

However, about half way through my teaching career, I found myself in just such a situation. Reflecting back on those three years in that program, I came to see that much of the anxiety caused by my assumptions to be baseless; in fact, I found that standardized proficiency tests* can have a liberating effect on teachers and can carry several positive aspects for programs and staff members.

(*In this discussion, I will be referring to standardized proficiency tests used to determine whether students have the skills necessary to be promoted to the next Reading-level class, Listening-level class, and Grammar-level class, but NOT Speaking or Writing classes. The tests can be commercially-made or in-house-made. Also here, I’m referring to discrete-skills programs as opposed to integrated ones. (See • Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills

My assumptions about standardized proficiency tests. I had always assumed that using standardized tests would interfere with the creativity of teaching and restrict how and what teachers taught. I had imagined students refusing to engage in any activity that did not appear to be directly related to their need to pass the test. And I visualized having to “teach for the test.”

Advantages of standardized proficiency tests.

  • The teachers at the next level can feel confident that all their students have met the same standard and have the same general ability. The conflicts that can arise when some teachers are seen as “easy graders” and others as “hard graders” can be eliminated.
  • The focus is on developing proficiency, not on the amount of homework papers a student submits or how much effort they seem to be making.
  • The teachers need to seriously evaluate now effective each lesson is in developing the skill.
  • There is no issue concerning cheating on homework or quizzes during the term as these have no impact on students’ promotion.
  • Teachers don’t have to keep detailed records of scores on homework and quizzes in order to justify passing/failing a student.
  • The personality factor is eliminated. We don’t have to deal with situations in which students complain that they failed because the teacher didn’t like them.
  • Teacher do not have to involved in the emotional situations of students begging for a passing grade or arguing about a grade given.
  • Students tend to take an active role in their education as they are doing work for their own benefit, not to impress the teacher.
  • After passing the test, students have expressed a sense of accomplishment in that they have met a standard.

Making it work: four ways.

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• ESL Student-Presentations (Part 2): An Effective, Modified Presentation Activity

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(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

In Part 1, I analyzed the assumptions teachers have made about having students do class-presentations. (See •ESL Student-Presentations (Part 1): Questioning the Reasons for Doing Them)

As I concluded in that post, there seems to be weak support for having students do class presentations. However, many ESL teachers would like to give each student the experience of speaking to a small group of classmates. These are the challenges:

  • The students should clearly understand how to carry out the activity.
  • The activity shouldn’t take up a lot of class time preparing.
  • What the “presenters” talk about should be of high interest.
  • The activity shouldn’t give the “presenters” increased levels of stress, but rather help them develop confidence and let them experience success.
  • The “presenters” should receive natural feedback on how well they were understood, but at the same time, the “audience” classmates should not be expected to be evaluators.
  • The “audience” classmates should not be merely passive listeners. They need to be motivated to be engaged during the activity.

And here is an activity that does all that.

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