(This posting includes handouts which you are welcome to use with your students.)
Several years ago, long before the coronavirus pandemic, researchers found that restaurant workers and hospital staff members were very negligent about washing their hands. This article discusses a clever study that was conducted to find a way to reverse this trend by comparing positive and negative messages. The results from the study can give us some interesting insights into how we might best motivate people in general.
Excerpts from paragraphs 2 and 11
2 We expect doctors and nurses to be aware of how important it is to wash their hands after they have examined or helped a patient. They understand that if they don’t, they could spread a disease from one patient to another. Surprisingly though, a researcher found that only 39% of hospital workers washed their hands properly. That is almost the same as the 38% of restaurant workers who do.
11 In sum, the researchers found that using a positive approach with the electronic board was much more effective than the negative signs about spreading disease. Every time the staff members washed their hands, they received immediate positive feedback. This positive feedback triggered a pleasure signal in their brains which they enjoyed getting. In other words, they tended to repeat this action in order to experience that pleasure signal. After a while, it became a habit, and they continued to do it even after the electronic boards were removed.
Article & Study Guide for Handwashing and Motivation
(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
In this YouTube video, I describe the Writing Workshop Approach to teaching ESL writing skills. This approach has been successfully used by a large number of teachers. Some of the many benefits include motivating students by giving them autonomy and allowing teachers to conference one-on-one with students during the class time rather than outside class.
Here is the link to the YouTube video:ESL Writing Workshop on YouTube
Here is a link to where you can read more about the steps in the workshop approach and find a specific model lesson plan with free downloadable exercises/activities.
I learned an important lesson from one of my Writing class students. I originally thought that AJ was a pretty good writer, but the grammar on her second essay was a disaster. In class the next day, I showed her paper to her with all the grammar mistakes coded and asked her if she was surprised by them. With a look of embarrassment on her face, she said she wasn’t surprised because she hadn’t taken enough time to edit her paper.
This story about AJ is connected to a common myth about marking grammar on students’ papers: Students will feel discouraged if they see that they have a lot of grammar mistakes. Contrary to this myth, when I’ve asked students, “Do you want me to mark every grammar mistake on your essay or only the most serious errors?” I have found everyone has responded, “I want you to mark them all.”
(See Myth: Students Don’t Like to See Red Marks on Their Papers for more about my survey of students’ attitude.)
However, the idea of marking all the grammar mistakes can present a dilemma for us Writing teachers. Are we just enabling students like AJ by, in essence, becoming their personal editor when, in fact, they could have found the majority of those mistakes on their own had they taken the time to proofread the essay?
(See Most Effective Technique for Marking Grammar on Essays to Develop Self-Editing Skills for more about marking students’ grammar mistakes more effectively.)
This is how my experience with AJ changed how I approach marking grammar on essays.
(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
Here is the link to the YouTube video: The Teacher’s Role During Student-Centered Conversation Activities
In this video, I discuss how teachers can provide valuable feedback to students about how they are carrying out pair/small-group activities. I explain how the teacher can be observing students and keeping brief (realistic) notes for each student, even in large classes. I also share some user-friendly feedback forms which teachers can fill out and give to each student. See link below. This process can provide students with specific information about how they can improve their conversation skills when working in pairs/small groups.
Here is the link to the feedback forms that I had discussed in the video which you can download for free to use you’re your students: Feedback forms for Conversation Classes 3
For more video discussions about teacher ESL, visit my YouTube channel: . Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe
I recently downloaded my first five videos to my YouTube channel: “Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe”. These videos provide me the opportunity to discuss some of the background and to explain with a bit more details some of the teaching techniques and materials that I’ve posted on this blog, Common Sense ESL.
Here are the links to the first five videos.
Here is the link to the channel: YouTube Channel: Student-Centered Teaching ESL by David Kehe
Maybe this is why students tend to love their ESL classes.
We can actually include something in our lessons that will fire up the reward brain circuits in our students’ brains. However, there can be a downside to this.
Neuroscientists at Harvard found that people’s brain reward circuits lit up when they were talking about themselves. Amazingly, doing this can trigger the same sensations of pleasure in the brain as food, money or sex.
In other words, talking about ourselves feels good. In fact, it feels so good that participants in a study were willing to accept 25% less money if it meant that they could talk about themselves rather than talk about someone else.
This research has interesting implications for our ESL classes.
We now know how to help our students enjoy conversation activities, and that’s good. However, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Apparently, some students like the brain pleasure they feel so much that they can’t stop themselves from dominating conversations talking about themselves.
Techniques to encourage conversations/discussions but that keep students from dominating the activities.
I once interviewed for an ESL teaching position at a school in Switzerland. I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic place to live and teach for a couple of years. The type of courses and the type of students that I would teach seemed like a good fit for me. On top of that, it included free housing.
Fortunately, during the interview, I asked a question, and after hearing their response, I immediately knew that teaching there would have been a disaster for me.
During the interview, I answered the typical questions that they asked. Then near the end of it, the interviewer (director) asked me if I had any questions, so I asked, “What are you most proud of about your program?”
The interviewer answered, “We believe that one of the greatest features of our program is how much time students get to spend with their teachers. The teachers’ housing is right next to the student dorms, so there are lots of chances for students to interact with teachers outside class and in their homes. The housing location also makes it easier for teachers to supervise students outside class.”
I enjoy interacting with my students in class and when I run into them outside of it, but I was certain that I would quickly burn out under those conditions. The next day, I withdrew my name for consideration.
A positive impression I got after hearing the answer to that same question
During an interview at a different program at a college, I asked the same question, “What are you most proud of about your program?” That time, I was very impressed by the response. The interviewer said that ESL program is considered an integral part of the college. In other words, unlike ESL programs on many other campuses, this one is not separate from the rest of the campus. In fact, the ESL instructors are even encouraged to serve on college committees.” That clinched my decision to accept the position when it was offered to me.
Two more important questions to ask when you are being interviewed