Lack of proficiency in the teaching language creates hurdles in a child’s eagerness to independently read a book and assimilate knowledge. Even when a learner understands a concept taught by the teacher in the classroom, still he/she has to devote extra hours mugging up chapters to produce acceptable answers during school examinations.
At times, we end up teaching skills that learners will require in the future, but the content is not related to real life. Therefore, learners can’t relate to it. The natural urge to question the authority of a teacher and the benefits of studying can create havoc in a child’s mind.
Can change in syllabus and teaching methodology hold the attention of learners in such a way that they keep themselves engaged in the acquisition of knowledge and self-exploration through carefully planned language classes, instead of deviating from the path of education?
Teaching the language of instructions
Scraping off the language of instruction as a subject with a period dedicated to it every day wherein a language teacher helps students to read and understand 15 or more stories and a novel in one academic year can help resolve many issues.
Language of instruction should be taught while teaching science, history, and even mathematics. Small grammar lessons can be formatted in all subject books, either as notes in a corner of a page or as footnotes on a page.
This will help students understand the significance of language to convey ideas and opinions, and more importantly, they will understand that language is not a subject but language is everything.
What amazes me is the way a language is taught. Were the short stories and novels written to be studied as chapters in schools and young learner’s rote learning these beautiful stories? Clearly, no they are to be enjoyed during leisure time but a child remembers them as a burden because he/she has to take a test based on these stories.
Shakespeare will be shocked to see how students are asked to learn or remember the lines rather than performing them on stage or enjoy reading them in groups or alone.
What are the ways in which a language should be taught?
What can we do?
- Instead of prescribing academic books, a fairly long list of fiction and non-fiction books should be recommended out of which a student has to read a minimum set of books in an academic year. These suggested books should be freely available in the school library.
- Create a routine to make it compulsory for students to go to the library and get a book issued that they want to read during leisure time. There are weekly library periods, but we should also encourage students to get a book issued. Issuing books to students should be a routine same as attending science classes or mathematics lessons. Even if a student doesn’t read the books he gets issued, still, he will hold one new book and take responsibility for keeping that book safe for at least one week.
- The problem of one size fits all can be resolved by giving students independence of making choice and help them slowly gravitate towards their interests thereby develop a lifelong love for reading.
- In classrooms, the teacher should give a new comprehension passage each day on an engrossing topic that can be done in 10-15 minutes. After that language teacher will get time to discuss answers, vocabulary, grammar, and phrases used in that passage. Students should be motivated to maintain their personal vocabulary register wherein they can write new words, phrases, and expressions used in that passage instead of maintaining notebooks to write question answers based on set stories and novels.
Benefits of this system
- If these passages are done with the help of smartboards or LED screens then the wastage of paper can be avoided.
- Added to this, for enhancing students’ reading speed, the teacher can copy-paste the same passage on PowerPoint to control the speed at which the words disappear from the screen. This will be a fun activity for students wherein they will drastically increase the number of words they can read in a minute.
- Why a child who attends grammar classes for 12 years in school is still not able to grasp basic tenses let alone advance grammar? This happens because, firstly, grammar books are different from course books. On top of this, we as teachers fail to help students see the usage of correct grammar in passages and stories to convey exact meaning. The teacher can use the same passage to deliver grammar lessons and help students connect the grammar portion that has been taught to a real passage instead of practice sentences.
- This methodology will also help eliminate traditional standardized tests based on course books. Students will not ask a teacher “is this going to be on the test?’
Read my article on how different passages can be used for best results.
Admittedly, schools pay less attention to the listening component of a language which in reality is an integral part of any language. There are students who have studied a language for 12 years at school and are aware of basic and sometimes even advanced vocabulary but when they hear the same words spoken by native speakers, they are unable to understand those words, their ears are not trained in schools to understand spoken language.
Utilizing time for listening activities is thought to be a waste of precious school hours.
With the advancement in technology, listening exercises should now become an indispensable part of the classroom with multiple Bluetooth earphones/headphones connected to one audio source.
What can we do?
Time spent at school to develop the listening skills of a child can be multifunctional.
- Students have a limited attention span. Giving listening exercises to students wherein they have to attempt multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, or take notes can actually help them to concentrate on the given task. Focusing to achieve is a skill that can be taught via listening exercises.
- We give cues with regard to our emotions, likes, and dislikes or to convey our agreement or disagreement while speaking. These hints are often misunderstood or ignored by listeners which can lead to conflicts and even crossing the line of law. To listen is to understand other people. Children can be trained to pick these signals and become more empathetic through listening activities.
- Life skills can be taught via listening to the audio drama in which the storyline and characters in social context unfold the everyday skills required by children to navigate through life seamlessly.
Benefits of this system
We can teach or make students aware of important social issues and give many life lessons. Things like money management, relationships, manners, health care, mental health, time management, laws and rights as a citizen, survival without technology, home management, gender equality, digital rules can be successfully taught through captivating series of audio dramas.
Children can be sensitized about bullying in schools, on campus, or outside of school through powerful audiovisual media. The major cause behind children bullying others is they don’t even know what exactly they are doing. Young minds need to know what is bullying, why some children get involved in it as well as how hurtful it can be for a victim. Showcasing a bully as a weak and insecure person in the video can make children avoid such behaviour. Many more issues such as jealousy, character building can be handled in a similar way.
SPEAKING AND WRITING
Many schools have started focusing on speaking activities but are these successful? Generally, children are given a topic for debate, they simply go back home to search the topic online, and then speak in front of others. This is inappropriate and ineffective. Children aren’t able to make use of the vast range of vocabulary they already know; slowly their active vocabulary is shifted to sleeping vocabulary. When they have to speak in everyday contexts they fall short of words. The same is the case with writing.
What can we do?
- Teachers should give impromptu what-if scenarios so that children develop the ability to think through scenarios and situations that arise in their life. While children present arguments and discussions, teachers can gently guide students to avoid faulty reasoning to construct arguments and learn about the logical consequence. This will prepare them for real-world scenarios.
- Regularly debate and discuss the characters and storyline of the suggested books. Children should be given the freedom to express their thoughts and views about books instead of a teacher interpreting the book and making them write answers. This will also help them understand that others can have totally different points of view regarding the same subject and this doesn’t mean that there needs to be a conflict and a fight. They will learn to handle a difference of opinion with grace and dignity.
- Role-plays are also effective, and schools use them too, but there needs to be a set syllabus for this also. Some teachers are creative and aware about using this methodology to inculcate various qualities in children whereas others just while away the time of children by doing meaningless role-play activities.
Going beyond Roleplays in the classrooms
Schools can designate an area in the school premises where role play setup can be made like a hall which can be turned into a bank for one week wherein children can open their bank account or enquire regarding their bank statement, deposit cheque and all. Next week the same area can be converted into a hospital. Thereafter, an office where children will enjoy attending mock board meetings, interview sessions, and so on.
Teachers can give topic related phrases and vocabulary as well as help them learn about the situations which they will face in their real life. These activities will be engaging and make students come to school with enthusiasm while still polishing their verbal communication skills.
Striking a conversation in everyday context is also an art which our students must polish before they enter the real world. Listening to others and responding appropriately sounds easy but our children lack this skill. Children should be trained to manoeuvre through the difference of opinions, look for cues by noticing a change in tone of voice or body language. Such activities will empower our children to step into the real world with confidence and grace after they finish schooling.”
More than anything else teachers need to promote speaking skills in all the students equally. In most schools, children who already have good speaking skills are given opportunities to speak in front of the audience, participate in debates and discussions, and become the face of the school when dignitaries visit school premises or the school has to be represented at the interschool level which gives a further boost to their confidence but what about other students?
Speaking effectively is a skill that cannot be ignored but the methodology used should be changed so that a greater number of students can be trained to be good conversationalists as well as a powerful speaker in situations they will come across when they will leave their school.
What can we do?
- Children should never be made to rote learn selected essays, notices, letters, and so on out of which they have to do one on the test day. This is not writing skills, this is actually testing memorization skills.
- Children should be made to write original pieces of writings by using their creativity.
- There should be a set syllabus for vocabulary, phrases, style of writing for each task because many times they already have essay writing included in their syllabus but they are never motivated to write something original thus even a 12th pass out is unequipped to write effectively.
The Deep Dive!
Disengagement of students in the study process can be attributed to various factors. As children grow up, the combination of physical changes, an urge to establish a position in school and family, as well as, questioning the set norms by students are some of the major issues, but linguistic incompetence is a bigger trigger for developing an aversion to the learning process.
While setting up the syllabus, topics that need to be covered through language classes should be meticulously divided according to the age group that will do these activities.
Thereafter, the topics can be done via reading and then revised or studied in detail with listening practices. Followed by discussion sessions and writing sessions should be grouped together. Like, after a comprehension passage based on money management is done in class, it can be followed by hearing audios based on the conversation between bank manager and the customer wherein a child will know how things work at a bank or a conversation among family members can be played where they are making a household budget.
This way children will get a deeper insight into the subject. The teacher can then have discussion sessions where impromptu topics can be given to the students based on the importance of earning, saving, and how to control spending. Role-play can help them to further enhance their conversation skills during such real-life scenarios. They can be made to write letters to the bank manager on cheque bounce, extending credit limit, or overdraft.
Teachers are the soul of the class therefore they need to be tested, trained and encouraged to follow such patterns effectively.
This way, students will learn a language in-depth, cover-up topics that are not presently part of the school curriculum thereby making the learning at school effective, interesting, and useful. It is time we answer the questions raised by thinking minds regarding flaws in the education system.
We are sure this article by Ravneet would have given you many tips for effective language teaching for your classrooms whether online or in person. Read another article by Ravneet on Joint-Syllabus Model, a Paradigm Shift in the Delivery of Education.