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Posts Tagged ‘teaching English’
Don’t let your students run away!

Things often make me feel quite nostalgic nowadays. Today I remembered the time I was into learning English. It was in 1980’s (It’s like ages ago. Wow I’m getting older!)  and unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to learn English at a private school in Turkey or abroad. We had English lessons at our school which was a state one and those lessons were our screaming, jumping and fighting time in the class where there were no English teachers.

I was eager to learn English. The variety of English books was limited and we didn’t afford to buy them. I remember my dear mum collecting the newspaper coupons to get English practice books and cassettes for me. The smell of those books and the sound of the speaker in those cassettes are still fresh in my memory. I used to read, listen and repeat a pile of stuff full of mechanical drills, but nothing was changing. Whenever I tried to speak, I failed and fell into deep depression. I was waiting for someone to tell me “I can swim.” so I would immediately start to make a long list of drills such as “You can swim. He can swim. She can swim. Blah blah blah” Even though I was making tons of drills desperately, nothing was changing. Speaking in real life wasn’t like that.

I loved listening to Madonna. While I was listening to ‘Like A Prayer’ and ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ I was desirous to sing from the loud noise with Madonna. Although I didn’t understand any of the things in the songs I was repeating them after the singer and at last I managed to memorize my favourite songs. Finally my mum did the best (like always) and decided to send me to an English course.

Things didn’t go well. After I started the course, I was close to despair. All we were doing was to translate English sentences into Turkish and Turkish ones into English. “Learning English can’t be such a freak process” I was thinking (very philosophically!). Just then I won a scholarship for İSTEK Atanur Oğuz where I had millions of English lessons. At the end of the first month I decided to be an English teacher just like my beloved English teacher, Jennifer Woodward (Hope she will read all these one day).

After I became an English teacher, I thought about her teaching style many times. What helped me while I was learning? Role playing, which was my favourite part of the lessons, made me feel in the middle of life with a different role each time. Everything had a meaning. Though I didn’t make perfect grammatical sentences, I could express myself and share my opinions. By the end of the term I could understand what my teacher was saying, I could response, I could sing Madonna’s and even Phil Collins’ songs, understand them and write to my pen friend. That was not all! I was also able to write my diary in English.

Miss Woodward used and made us use the language in real or real like atmospheres so we were all active participants in the learning process. She took us out of the classroom by selecting, creating and planning meaningful activities.

Although there are great teachers like Miss Woodward today, there are also some teachers who only use drill work, grammar rules and formulas with great insistence.

Psychologists claim that boredom in school is turning students to crime and drugs. A troubled, run – away girl, when asked what was wrong with school, said: “You just have to sit there. I don’t know. There ought to somehow be more action or something.” (Wilkinson, 1939)

So do not let your students run away. Just like a prayer, make them hear your voice. Let them fly and feel the power of learning.

Don’t forget it’s like a dream but IT’S NOT A DREAM!

Wilkinson, J.A. (1993) The Symbolic Dramatic PlayLiteracy connection, Ginn Press, USA