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First get them comfortable with making mistakes 
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Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 6:49 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Japan
Post First get them comfortable with making mistakes
I just took up my first ever post as a EFL instructor for high school students. I work for a Japanese high school and I have benefited from the fact that I am free to do whatever I want. It seems the vibe at my current school is that as long as I am demonstrate control over a classroom and competence in teaching anything, school admins will not get involved. This lack of involvement is a separate issue I will address later.

With this freedom I have decided to make it my solitary goal to get my students speaking. I have no specific TL for them to acquire, no particular grammar rule to absorb. I have positioned myself as a social competency teacher more than a language instructor. As if every one of my classrooms were a social event, if I can't get a healthy discussion started in my classroom, I have failed.

As I am sure anyone reading this has assumed I have not had much success. But amid all this failure I have realized something that has my students mouths taped shut - their fear of being wrong. Whenever I sit next to a student and transform the conversation into something between us two instead of the entire class I see a dramatic change in their desire to speak. These students are packed with ingredients to be talking heads if only their theirs mouths weren't weighed down with fear. I have decided to change my goal from getting them to speak to getting them to not be scared of mistakes. Currently the most effective tool to use in this endeavor is guessing.

Guessing is something we are all familiar with as humans as it is the single most utilized mental tool we use to make sense of the world around us. From our birth until our death we always start with guessing when trying to understand the unknown. Language is no different - especially a foreign one. I have decided to use guessing as my main weapon as I attack this fear that has my student's mouth under tight control. I have already designed a couple lessons around this theory but before I elaborate I would like to hear what the Mes-English community has to say about my novel idea.

Yoroshiku Ne.

Thu Jul 16, 2015 3:36 pm
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post Re: First get them comfortable with making mistakes
Sorry for the late reply to this. I have just been hammered recently and I've finally had a chance to come up for air ...

I don't think you're on the wrong track. I think fear of mistakes is a legitimate argument.

I generally argue that Japanese students are driven to perfection, so if they can't make the perfect sentence, the system shuts down. They can't get past the part they are unable to articulate.

What I try to do is change the idea of 'mistake' to simply 'missing the target'. I give them examples like a basketball player shooting but not making the basket. Would you call that a 'mistake'? Of course not. He just missed the basket and needs to try again. He will miss many times and make a few. With practice he gets better and misses less, but still misses. Language learning is much like that.

Guessing is something I use in many of the MES English games. It's the premise for a lot of the q&a activities. However, I could always use a new take on teaching. How are you using it?

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Tue Aug 04, 2015 11:33 pm
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