Without some kind of activity on the part of the student, learning cannot take place. The purpose of any activity must ultimately be to enhance learning. I’m sure you must agree. This should be the case in any learning situation.
In a TALK class, however, we do not believe that activities enhance learning, we believe that activities are inherent to learning, that without activity, learning cannot take place. TALK is what we call an active learning system, students not only talk most of the time, they are also in charge of what and how they study.
I remember the first time I went sailing. Within twenty minutes of setting out I was seasick, terribly seasick! I pleaded with my instructor to take me back to shore and leave me there. He just shook his head and laughed. Without any explanations, he then handed me the main sheet and rudder. Up until then I had been passive, just listening to and observing my instructor; but all of a sudden I was in total control of the yacht. Out of necessity, my attention switched from my heaving stomach to controlling the ship. Without even realizing it, my seasickness left me and I became a sailor. More than likely you have had a few similar experiences of your own.
The important insight to gain from such experiences is that by being an active participant in what you are learning, your learning ability is amplified; you assimilate information without effort. Putting your students at the helm, so to speak, is the ultimate learning “technique”.
What does learning mean? Essentially you change yourself (body and mind) into a new version of yourself. This is a gradual process and highly individual; each person learns in a different way, in a different order, and at a different speed. We believe that TALK provides students, as well as teachers, with the practical means (ideas, techniques, materials, and support) to individualize the learning process to a large degree, allowing each student (and teacher) to become more himself.
The level of awareness is directly related to how well you learn; because learning is, above all, a mental process. Doing the same things with a different awareness makes a bigger impact on learning than doing different things with the same awareness. Effective learning involves the whole person; and the more a student feels that he is in charge of this process, the more he will generate the necessary energy for learning.
Each person is the center of the world. The same event can be experienced in many different ways. Each of us experiences the world from his or her own unique subjective perspective.
What students do inside a TALK class
Each student can be active in a TALK class most of the time, but what exactly do they do? We have tried all kinds of activities and techniques over the years; some with good results, while others are best left buried. We would like to invite you to use some of our better techniques in your own classes. Let your students experiment with them. If you give them a large pool of activities that they can draw from, they will soon find that some help them learn better than others. And don’t be afraid to invent your own activities.
36 Learning Activities
01 Learning playfully
Strictly speaking, this is not a specific activity, but a general attitude towards learning. However, sometimes, just for the fun of it, you should encourage your students to pretend that learning playfully is actually an activity in itself. In other words, do whatever you do in a highly exaggerated manner, going way beyond what you would normally consider playful.
Here is a good way to know if you’re being “playful enough”. If you feel funny, strange, uneasy, or like a freak, you know that you’re stretching your playfulness. Be happy and accept this as an indication that you’re on the right track.
Play with this very effective technique to widen your definition of what you consider playful.
Playing with word sound patterns
Playing with word sound patterns is a quick and easy way to “feel” the contours of a particular word or a range of words.
NOTE: Before you can show students how to do this activity, you (the teacher) need to practice a little on your own.
You probably ask yourself: “How do I play with word sound patterns?” Deforming word sound patterns or exaggerating them allows you to feel their boundaries and their shape rather quickly. Not only that, but doing something out of the ordinary with your mouth (and body in general) is hilarious, and therefore relaxing. Automatically, you, as well as your students, loosen up.
TIP: Practice playing with words. Really go to extremes (from your point of view) when you’re alone. You’ll probably be shocked and embarrassed at what you hear coming out of your mouth.
Playing with words
When we speak we play with words and meanings. However, there are culturally agreed-upon boundaries of how far we can go before something “right” becomes “wrong”. Playing with words is a technique that purposely ignores these boundaries for the purpose of discovering them.
Playing with words allows students to arrange words in any way they want without being “wrong”; anything is all right. Students need to discover that the rules by which we play the language game are man-made, not God-given. They should know that “mistakes” are just alternative versions of the official version.
NOTE: Officially recognized forms of playing with words are jokes and poems.
NOTE: We have described learning playfully, playing with word sound patterns, and playing with words. However, when your students actually learn with their partners in class, there is no need for them to neatly separate one activity from another; instead they should mix them freely together following their own feeling.
02 Talking about something in the target language
Talking about something in the target language is one of the most important language learning activities inside a TALK class. It should be for any language class, shouldn’t it?
In our daily life, we talk about the weather, about people, about what we did yesterday, what we’re going to do tomorrow, and we even talk about what we talk about! We never get tired of talking. But, as soon as we enter our language classroom, there is no more talking-about-something-for-the-fun-of-it. “Why on earth not?” you might mutter to yourself as you’re reading these lines. Yes, indeed! “Why not?” we’ve asked ourselves many times. Well, the simple reason is (simple only from hind-sight) that there is not the necessary learning environment in a normal class to allow you to engage in this activity. But you need not despair! In a TALK class, the conditions are right; your students can talk about anything at any time with their partners or any other person (including you, the teacher), as long as they use the target language.
We have found that, when applied wholeheartedly, simply “talking about something”, is one of the most beneficial procedures for your students.
03 Retelling a story
When we read or hear something (any event, or events, put into words) and understand it, we usually can remember the event itself, but not the details of it and the exact words. When we retell an event to a friend we try to reconstruct the event as closely as possible, but using our own words.
Your students can retell a story in two ways. (1) One student tells a story (or a narrative) and the other person tries to retell it as accurately as possible. (2) Students listen to a tape and try to retell whatever they have heard as accurately as possible.
04 Telling a story with own words
It is almost impossible for human beings not to give a personal interpretation to objects, events, and people. Giving our point of view on something is how we express our individuality. When we tell a story we create meaning by arranging events, objects, and people in our own special way, in a way that is uniquely individual.
Students often work with texts and tapes. They read, listen, repeat, use key words, and act out until they can say their sentences almost backwards. Don’t let them stop at this point. They must continue. The next step, which is vitally important, is to let them ‘play around’ with whatever story they are using in their own words.
The main point is for the students to practice language at their own personal level, without worrying about correctness. You may not believe this is right or good because you have been led to believe otherwise, but it is perfectly acceptable to tell a story with only single words while supplementing them with gestures and facial expressions. The following story, for instance, is perfectly understandable:
Yesterday-party-many people-dance-talk lot-home late-headache-tired-much beer.
Don’t you think so? If students are confident with the language they know, it’s less likely they will be afraid to take their next step forward.
05 Asking questions
Asking questions is the key to any conversation and also to successful language learning.
06 Interviewing each other
This activity is a special application of asking questions in general. When you interview someone you ask lots of questions. It’s fun. Students should act as if they were reporters. Let them really act out the part, let them pretend they are holding a mike, etc. It’s good if they take notes or even record what is being said. They can play it back later in class or at home, transcribe it, if they wish, and learn what their strengths and weaknesses are.
07 Repeating after a recording
Repeating after a tape is a demanding activity if students really try to be aware of the sound patterns.
Because many students don’t know what cuing is or how to use this technique, we have included this icon in the Activity Menu Card.
Cuing means the play button stays put when you press fast forward or rewind. This allows the user to quickly and efficiently repeat the desired section on the tape.
TIP: If you are going to buy a new tape recorder to use in a TALK class, make sure you can cue it.
09 Using a tape for dictation
Using a tape for dictation is an activity to help students get to know a little bit of spoken language and simultaneously learn how to transcribe it into written words. Don’t forget to tell your students that they must talk about what they are doing in the target language.
10 Reading for meaning
Reading for meaning can be done in two ways. (1) Students try to understand what they read directly from the context and content of what they’re studying. We strongly recommend that they do this as much as possible. (2) They translate what they read into their native language (or another language they know well).
A variation of “Reading for meaning” would be “listening for meaning”. While one student talks the other listens actively, trying to understand the meaning of the words. This is a two-way training technique in both speaking and listening. Students can improve their reading skills by getting feedback from the one who is listening, while the listener can improve his listening ability as he evaluates the reader.
11 Reading for speed
Reading for speed is an easy but very important preparation for speaking fluently. It is important to work together. Only with someone to cheer one on will one really be able to go faster.
12 Reading for pleasure
Reading for pleasure means exactly what it says: reading for pleasure. The purpose is for students to enjoy what they read without worrying about details and without using a dictionary. This activity can be done individually at home or together in class.
TIP: If you are interested in a systematic reading approach that really works, contact Beniko Mason (1-11-419 Takasu-Cho, Nishinomia-Shi, Hyogo-Ken 663, Tel.: 0798-49-4071) who has very successfully been running an extensive reading course with several hundred students. Such a reading approach goes very well with the TALK learning system. (Contact us for more details.)
13 Asking someone to do something
When you’re outside the classroom you often need to ask other people to do something for you; it’s an important function of language. Unfortunately, for certain reasons, there’s almost no need to do this in language learning classes. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Students should ask their partners and other students in the class to do something for them. They must remember that, as they want another person to do something for them, it is very important that they practice using polite language.
14 Imagine you’re on TV
What you imagine and believe about yourself is very important; it has an enormous influence on how you think and feel at any moment. By teaching your students to imagine they’re on TV, they can create for themselves a new and different frame of reference to work from.
15 Imagine you’re on radio
When students use this activity, make sure that they can’t see each other. This is an activity that trains voice and hearing skills. Students can shout or whisper, speak very fast or very slowly. Let them experiment and find out what they can do with their vocal chords.
16 Acting out in a lively way
In order to be able to act out a setting, dialogue, narrative or set of questions, your students have to first imagine the situation they’re in. They have to have a clear idea of the content of what they are saying. If your students can really get involved in the part they are playing, you will find that they retain and remember what they are studying much better. If your whole self is involved in acting out a situation, the total amount of stimuli to the learning center of your brain is increased.
This may sound like a crazy activity, but actually it isn’t. When you dream, everything is possible. You can be in Paris one moment and in Tokyo the next; you see a rose and suddenly it is tree; nothing is impossible.
Now, you may or may not be aware of the fact that almost everyone always compartmentalizes their thoughts and imagination into possible, not possible, good or bad. This is absolutely necessary when you try to cross a busy street, but not when you are in a classroom. You need not worry whether what you think is practical, possible, normal or out of the ordinary. In a TALK class your students (and you) can be as playful as they want to be without putting their life in jeopardy or disturbing the person next to them. Give it a try yourself and encourage your students to do the same.
Use daydreaming to your own advantage; it is one of many ways to learn playfully.
18 Creating procedures
Use the procedures we suggest for each TALK Learning Tool. Maybe you will like them or maybe you won’t. Sometimes suggest to your students that they should try and create their own procedures (with the help of the Activity Menu Card, for instance).
NOTE: If You come up with something interesting and helpful, we’d appreciate it if you would send us a copy. We are learning too!
Just because your students are students doesn’t mean that they can’t be productive. Their ideas are as good as anyone else’s. Instead of just practising, your students could instead create a definite product that can be used by other people. Of course, to publish something demands more work, but the return is also much more rewarding than just getting a number or a grade.
What happens when students learn only for a grade? As soon as they get their “payment” (your score) they quickly forget what they got it for. Practically speaking, learning for a grade is quite meaningless for their personal life. However, if with your help they publish some poems, a short story, or whatever, they, you, and other people will remember your joint work even twenty years from now. (When I was a teacher in Germany, teaching history, my students wrote a history book. To my own surprise it was published twice by my university. The idea to have a product at the end of a course was picked up by other teachers who applied it successfully to other subjects.)
20 Using own ideas
In a TALK class, your students often study with texts and tapes. Every sentence they read or hear is correct. Are your students afraid that what they say is no good unless it is “correct”? Do they assume that it is bad to make “errors”? Stop and think about it for a moment: not to make “errors” is absolutely impossible. It is an innate part of the very nature of learning.
The only way to speak correctly is to speak the language you’re learning as much as possible–p;and that involves making errors. The only way to speak the language you’re learning with fewer (or no) errors is to accept the fact that you’re going to make errors.
Help your students to not feel uncomfortable when they make errors. Only then will they feel comfortable to use their OWN IDEAS. If they use their own ideas, their own words, they will get the energizing feeling that they are making things happen.
We call this activity “Using own ideas” to help students get into the habit of saying what they think, not to be afraid of their own ideas.
Students should try to talk about whatever they are working with, with whatever words they are capable of using. They could make up their own version of a dialogue or narrative (on the Dialogue Cards) or give their opinion of the content of some text. The important thing being that they express themselves in their own words and not just repeat everything parrot fashion. They will make “mistakes” in the process but they will also get a sense of achievement.
21 Extending a text
This activity is a practical application of using your own ideas. Add one or two sentences at the end and insert a few words here and there. Then, instead of the original text, use this updated version.
At any one time you can only assimilate so much. Learning is a process that allows you to incorporate something that wasn’t in you before. Something from the outside becomes part of you. Knowledge is a perishable commodity however. It has to be reaffirmed, re-learned, and re-practiced all the time.
23 Using key words
Use the key words we provide on the Dialogue Cards. They help you to remember without wasting much energy. If the materials you work with don’t have key words, you can write them yourself. Using key words is simple, but very effective.
24 Not using key words
After working with the full text, students should continue to use key words. However, it is vital that they try to study without key words at some stage. They must begin to depend on their own resources.
25 Timing it
The objective of timing a reading, speaking, or writing activity is not the timing itself, but the excitement it can create. When timing an activity is done in a playful manner, students can have a good time and learn effortlessly. Timing activities should not be used as a testing tool.
26 Using drawings
On each Dialogue Card, Transcription Card, and Feedback Card are four drawings. You may think they serve no real purpose and are just nice decorations. We feel, however, they are even more important than the text on the back because the drawings can be interpreted in an almost unlimited number of ways. This icon refers to any visual material that can be used as a source of ideas to develop conversations or dialogues.
27 Using text
Teaching materials are mainly text based. Apart from the teacher, texts are the main resource for new learning data. The Using text activity is straightforward. Students can use this icon to distinguish text-based activities from non text-based.
28 Using authentic materials
Most language learning materials (including the TALK Learning Tools) are graded into levels to keep students’ (and your own) frustration to a minimum and to make learning more efficient. However suitable they might be for a classroom, please keep in mind that they are not the real thing. Real people don’t carry textbooks or dialogue cards with them in their daily life. Unfortunately, many students never manage to go beyond using classroom materials. The earlier you bridge the gap between simplified and authentic materials, the better.
We recommend that you playfully start using authentic materials (magazines, maps, newspapers, videos, TV, or just about anything) as early as possible. Unlike textbooks, authentic materials usually contain a lot of unknown vocabulary which students might at first find difficult to deal with. Don’t let this stop you or them, sooner or later they will have to deal with the real world and learn how to handle new situations.
What is the purpose of the TALK Learning Tools? Think of the TALK Learning Tools as crutches. First the students depend on them; but little by little, step by step they learn to use their own legs until they can walk (and maybe run and jump) without the crutches.
29 Creating building blocks
It is better to learn a little well than a lot superficially. Use this technique whenever you work with something that has more than one part, such as the Dialogue Cards. Your students should work with one part in detail before going on to the next. Only if students actually remember what they learn with their effort and time (and the teacher’s) does each lesson become a stepping stone or a building block for the next lesson.
30 Deciding a point of view
When you talk you can say: I’m learning to talk. He’s learning to talk. She’s learning to talk. We’re learning to talk. You’re learning to talk, or They’re learning to talk. Each personal pronoun represents a different point of view which can be transposed into the present, past, or future tense.
31 Sitting face to face
ake sure your students sit face to face. Apart from enhancing communication by allowing the observation of body language and gestures, we have found that this makes students feel more comfortable.
32 Sitting back to back
In class or out of class, we don’t usually sit back to back when communicating with someone. Sometimes, however, students could deliberately sit back to back. It’s fun to play around with an unusual way of communicating with one or several people.
33 Standing while talking
There are two reasons for standing up while learning. (1) In order to act out a role realistically, your students will often need to stand up. Encourage them to do so. (2) When anyone sits for too long a period of time, their body gets stiff and their blood doesn’t circulate properly. From time to time, make sure your students stand up and stretch. They’ll feel more alive and awake They can continue studying while they are standing.
34 Walking while talking
Walking while learning is an easy and quick way to speak fluently without building up stress. If your classroom setup permits, get your students to practice this technique as often as possible.
35 Keeping a record
When students keep a record of something, with a specific purpose in mind, they practice their writing skills without trying to practice writing per se. What purposes could your students keep records for?
To remember their ideas,
To remember information that they get from someone else,
To get feedback on their learning process,
To publish something.
36 Practicing sound patterns
This activity “Practicing sound patterns” is a specific application of the more general activity “Learning playfully” (page 27 and 180).
Students experiment playfully with the words, phrases, and sentences of a Dialogue Card, for example.
What students don’t do inside a TALK class
When you were young you were in control of your learning. Nobody really taught you how to learn to walk or how to learn to speak. Then off you went to school and your teachers started to control your every move. Although it wasn’t really fun (there are of course exceptions to the rule), this style of teacher oriented learning has become a strong habit. It will take some time before you can rediscover the most effective learning technique in the world: play.
They don’t always wait for the teacher to tell them what to do next.
In a TALK class your students have many options as to how they go about studying. Not only do they have more freedom to do what they would like to do, but they can also choose when they want your assistance and when they don’t.
Your students will find it hard to believe that you are not going to rigidly control how and what they study. At first, they will probably be reluctant to actually go ahead without you. This is a natural reaction because they’re not used to the TALK Learning System. Although they often need help in the beginning, you should nevertheless urge them on to be independent and to rely on their own resources as much as possible.
They don’t learn individually.
Although it looks as if all the students in a regular class study together, each student is more or less on his own. In theory, students are meant to cooperate, but in practice they are competing against each other to get good grades. This, we believe, is detrimental to effective learning. In a TALK class, the learning conditions are different and so each student can actually work together with his partner and all the other class members-including the teacher.
Without the cooperation of every student, a TALK class cannot function properly. Make it clear to your students that they should assist each other as much as possible. A famous Tai Chi Chuan teacher once said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. By helping, by teaching, by assisting, your students will gain mastery.
They don’t shut up most of the time.
In a normal language learning class, only one person speaks at a time; all the others have to shut up and listen. It has been found that teachers speak for about 60% of the time, while the remaining time is divided between students. If we turn this into real figures, in a typical hour long class, the teacher speaks for forty minutes while the students do so for twenty. If this still doesn’t sound too bad to you, let’s take it a little further. If a class has on average twenty five students, each student will get to speak a ludicrous 48 seconds. Need we say any more? In contrast to this, each student in a TALK class has the chance to practice speaking and listening (without ever waiting for his or her turn) for about 3000 seconds.
Imagine that instead of learning a language you were learning ice-skating. While the teacher would explain ice-skating 60% of the time you would be just watching him or her. Occasionally, for a minute or less during each lesson, you would be allowed to try some ice-skating yourself. Here is an easy question: How long would it take you to become a fairly good ice-skater?
Of course this never happens with ice-skating. Then why on earth do we let it happen with language learning? As we have said before, if the focus of a class is on teaching and not on learning, then the student will be the one who suffers most.
If these ideas make sense to you, then the next step, which is getting your students to speak as much as possible in class, becomes easy to tackle. By using the TALK system, every person is allowed to talk in the target language at the same time.
They don’t do things they dislike.
If you’re forced to eat certain foods in a certain sequence and in a certain way regularly you will probably end up not enjoying eating too much. Just a fantasy? Yes. Yet, this impossible scenario actually happens in formal education all the time. Students are forced to learn certain things in a certain sequence and in a certain manner. The effect is the same; students end up hating learning and the teachers lose their sense of creativity. A vicious circle is set into operation.
TALK is a practical way to get out of this vicious circle. In our TALK classes, students are not required to do this or that in this or that way, they can choose. Only one thing is really required. The students must use the target language all the time, that’s all. Literally! That is indeed ALL the students have to do.
They don’t only learn for grades.
Nobody learns for grades outside of formal education. We believe that the real motivation to do anything is to satisfy concrete individual needs. These needs are, of course, very personal.
You as the teacher must get your students to question themselves as to why they want to learn to speak a language. This will instantly separate the students into two or perhaps three groups.
Those who are studying because their course requires it. Simply put: they want good grades.
Those who want to be able to actually use the language and
Those who are somewhere in between.
No one can force you to learn anything, short of holding a gun to your head. Without some kind of internal motivation, your students’ progress will be slow. Keep this in mind when you are dividing the students into groups. Make sure there is a good balance in every group, if possible. If you can really develop a party atmosphere in your classroom, then the motivation of the good students will be contagious and draw even the reluctant students in. If learning is fun, everyone will want to learn.
Learning for numbers is ineffective. It’s as if you were hoping to arrive in a far away city by walking around and around in a room for many years. In a classroom, because everybody’s doing it, it seems to be the right thing to do. TALK breaks this pattern by creating a new learning environment that allows the people in the classroom to rediscover the fun in the learning process itself.
(Read chapter 14: Grading and Self-assessment in TALK Classes, page 220, for more ideas about giving grades that enhance learning.)
What the teacher does inside a TALK class
If you walk into a TALK class and observe the teacher, you will probably say to him or her at the end of the class: “What on earth are you doing? You’re not really teaching.” And that is true. If you compare a TALK teacher who stays in the background with a teacher who runs the show you will get the wrong impression.
The TALK teacher creates a relaxed learning environment.
The most important function of the host at a party is to create a relaxed atmosphere. The most important function of the TALK teacher is to create a relaxed learning environment. It’s a complex skill that can’t easily be defined or observed, but it is the most important ingredient for a successful TALK class.
The TALK teacher considers the learning process as important as the result.
When you learn for a number, or any kind of grade, you tend to lose sight of the learning process itself; all that matters is that you get the grade. The time and effort that led to the grade tend to become irrelevant once you’ve got this kind of “payment”. The observable result in the form of numbers or letters (the objective) is much more important than the learning process. Unfortunately, most learning is oriented in this way.
The fact is that the learning process and the learning result cannot be separated from each other. The process creates the result and, depending on the kind of result we’re looking for, the aim of learning will inevitably shape the process. Once a goal is established, it is best to concentrate mainly on the learning process; the results will take care of themselves.
The TALK teacher sets up the classroom.
One important aspect of creating a good learning environment is the way the classroom is set up. The teacher is responsible for how the room is organized. This doesn’t mean that you have to do it yourself though; your students should help you choose imaginative seating arrangements.
The TALK teacher suggests and manages general classroom procedures.
The teacher has the necessary time to suggest and manage general classroom procedures. Students can’t do this because they’re too busy learning.
The TALK teacher uses body language.
Body language can’t be switched on or off at will, it’s on all the time. However, being aware of this fact can greatly help you to communicate more effectively by paying attention to both your verbal and body language.
The TALK teacher stays in background.
As a TALK teacher you work in the background. You may be talking to a group of students, taking notes, talking to another teacher who came to observe the class, or even be outside for a short time. No matter what you do (unless you stop class) the students should carry on with their own business.
The TALK teacher helps students.
There are three different ways you interact in a TALK class with students.
The TALK teacher only helps when requested.
This is normal outside the classroom and should also be the norm in the classroom.
The TALK teacher offers help when walking around.
When you’re in a new city, looking lost, someone might notice you and say: “May I help you?” You then have two choices: to accept the offered help or to decline it. When you walk around in your class you should also offer your help, but leave it up to your students to accept or decline your offer. (You will be surprised how often students prefer to decline your help.)
The TALK teacher intervenes if he thinks it’s necessary.
This situation can be compared to a football coach who intervenes without being asked because he thinks it’s necessary. Even in a TALK class, you’re still the teacher and should not try to pretend you aren’t.
There are no set guidelines on how to balance these three ways. It all depends on your personality, what you believe to be important, how big your class is, how well you and your students interact with each other, and many other factors. It’s an art that goes well beyond normal teaching.
The TALK teacher teaches students to help themselves.
If you teach your students how to catch fish with a rod or a net, you won’t have to buy them fish everyday. In other words, the more you teach them to be self-sufficient, the more you will be free to help where it is needed.
The TALK teacher observes students.
In a normal class the students have the leisure to observe you because you’re busy running the show. In a TALK class the opposite is true: you have the time to observe the students.
What the teacher doesn’t do inside a TALK class
Like the students, you have to un-learn certain things, and until you do, you often will have the feeling that you are not doing the “right” thing. (Even we still get this feeling sometimes.) When learning something new, there is always this slightly awkward feeling. It’s normal. It simply means that you are learning.
The TALK teacher doesn’t always stop the whole class.
There is always a strong tendency for you (the teacher) to stop the whole class when you want to say something–p;and sometimes you must do this. The best moment is towards the end of the lesson, the second best at the beginning, and the worst in the middle.
The less you interrupt the whole class, the better. Many times the things you need to say only concern a few students. Don’t forget that each time you stop the whole class, only one person speaks and the total speaking time lost by the students is considerable.
The TALK teacher doesn’t try to be responsible for everything.
In a usual class, the teacher tries to be responsible for everything because he, as well as the students, believe that this is a necessity. To be responsible for everything is not necessary and actually impossible. Everyone understands that a host’s main function is not to take care of every detail; instead the main job is to set the tone. If you try to do too much, both you and your students will end up being frustrated.
The TALK teacher doesn’t try to make it interesting.
The teacher in a normal class is running the show and has to try to sell whatever he is teaching to the students. Sometimes they buy, but often they don’t. A lot of energy is wasted without good results.
Trying to make it interesting is based on the unspoken assumption that language learning is basically boring, not interesting.
The TALK teacher doesn’t enforce superficial discipline.
In a typical class, all the students are usually required to pay attention to the teacher, whether the topic is easy, difficult, or just boring. Naturally, students want to do something different when what they are being taught is not applicable to them. (I would too if I were in their place).
In a TALK class, there is no need to keep students superficially disciplined during a lesson.
The TALK teacher doesn’t worry about how to satisfy all the students.
The TALK teacher doesn’t have to worry about how to teach students of different abilities. On the contrary, the bigger the class, the easier it is for the students to find matching partners of similar abilities. What becomes a liability in a normal class turns into an asset in a TALK class.
The TALK teacher doesn’t talk most of the time.
Because the students do the talking in a TALK class doesn’t mean the teacher cannot talk. In fact, you have even more time to talk; you could talk the whole lesson to as many students as you like to. The difference is that while you are talking to a few students, all the others can carry on-nothing stops.
The TALK teacher doesn’t demonstrate his superiority.
The TALK teacher is not a student, but also not the one person who knows everything. In a TALK class, there is no pressure to constantly prove that you are the best. If you like performing in front of your students, if you like to have an audience, TALK may not be the right approach for you.
What students do outside of TALK classes
Whether students continue to learn the target language outside class depends on their motivation and how much time they have available.
They work individually.
In the TALK class, students work together with their partners and other students as much as possible–p;their time spent talking together is valuable. The best time to work individually is at home or when not in class.
You should ask your students to review at home what they do in class.
They read for pleasure.
Reading for pleasure should be an integrated part of language learning with TALK. Encourage your students to read, both silently and aloud. (See page 00 for information.)
They work in groups without the teacher.
Once your students know how to study with TALK, they can continue to study on their own any time and anywhere.
TIP: Your students should keep a record of what they do outside class; it’s a useful way for your students to keep track of their study patterns.
They use authentic sources.
The sooner students get used to authentic sources, the better. They need not understand everything to start using them. A playful approach would be the best way to help them overcome their fear.
They learn another language with TALK.
If the students know how to learn one language, they can use this know-how for learning a third or fourth one. (From my own personal experience, I know that the more languages I learn, the easier it gets.)
What the teacher does outside of TALK classes
What the teacher does outside of his classes has much to do with what goes on inside his classes.
Before I used TALK, I constantly produced new materials at home to make my lessons more fun for the students. I spent hour after hour preparing my classes in this way. Sometimes it worked, but more often then not my efforts were in vain. Often, in spite of all my preparations, lessons didn’t work out the way I had imagined they would.
With TALK, everything has changed. Now every lesson works (and even if it doesn’t the responsibility is only partly mine). On top of that, there is no need for me to prepare very much in advance. What has changed? Two things: (1) Students need less materials because they learn in a different way, and (2) because the fun and excitement is built into the learning process, there is no need for me to make my lessons “interesting” with new materials every time. The motivation in each lesson is created by the students themselves, by interacting with each other freely and spontaneously.
So what does a TALK teacher do outside of class?
The TALK teacher thinks about the students’ learning process.
When you stand in front of your students, you’re too busy with teaching and don’t have time to do anything else. As a TALK teacher, because you play a different role, you’re relieved from a great deal of unnecessary pressure and responsibility. You can concentrate more on your students’ learning process instead of the teaching process.
The TALK teacher visits other TALK classes.
Teachers love to talk about teaching in general, but are very sensitive to comments and evaluations from other teachers about their performance. No matter how nicely someone tells you your “shortcomings”, it hurts. Like students, teachers (including us) are afraid to perform in front of other teachers because they are afraid to make “mistakes”.
With TALK, this fear is greatly reduced because the responsibility for learning lies mainly in the hands of the students. The party host creates the environment for the guests, but is not directly responsible for whether the guests have a good time or not. Similarly, you are not directly responsible for whether students learn or not.
So, when another teacher visits your TALK class, you are not the object of observation. You can “teach” and observe your class with one or several guest teachers around, without interrupting the class. In fact, the students are so busy that they hardly notice that there are people walking around. You can stand back and observe more objectively.
What are the implications of this effect?
Teachers who use TALK can experiment with various ideas and show them to other teachers without being afraid. With TALK, you like cooperating creatively with other teachers more. This ultimately will create a better learning environment for all students.
The TALK teacher learns a language with TALK.
You can learn a language with TALK yourself. Why not? You have the know-how, you just need the time and the place,.
The TALK teacher creates his own learning tools.
As I did, you’ve probably invested endless hours in supplementing commercial learning materials with your own materials. Most of the time, you used what you created only a few times. Why let your efforts go to waste? If you wanted to, you could create your own learning tools and even publish them with us.
The TALK teacher organizes language circles.
Students learn invaluable skills in the TALK classroom: the foremost being how to study on their own. If they could use these skills outside the classroom in language circles, they would double the benefit of their investment. Suggest to your students that they can form language circles that meet at regular times outside classroom hours.